TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook need to pull up their socks on making their platforms safer spaces for LGBTQ users, GLAAD says in its latest report.
The organisation’s now-annual Social Media Safety Index analyses LGBTQ user safety on the five big social media platforms: TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. The first report was released last year, and is now a pretty important measurement of how companies are implementing actual measures to keep LGBTQ people safe from harm online.
Well, they all scored pretty badly this year.
GLAAD uses what’s called a “platform scorecard” for each company, developed with Ranking Digital Rights (a U.S. company that ranks tech companies on human rights) and Goodwin Simon Strategic Research (an independent public opinion research firm). The score is the total of 12 LGBTQ-specific factors, including whether the platform has an explicit policy against hate speech and harassment, whether you can add your pronouns to your profile, and whether the platform prohibits ads that could be harmful to (or specifically target) LGBTQ people.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok all scored lower than 50 out of 100 points. TikTok scored the lowest with a score of 43, followed by YouTube and Twitter with 45, Facebook at 46, and Instagram at 48.
All five companies were found to have a comprehensive policy protecting LGBTQ users from threats, hate speech, harassment, violence, and attacks based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. But of course, having company policies or community guidelines in place is one thing; enforcing them is another. For example, GLAAD said Facebook “should regularly publish data about the actions it has taken to enforce policies protecting LGBTQ users.”
GLAAD noted that TikTok and Twitter are the only two companies with an explicit policy against the harmful anti-LGBTQ microaggressions deadnaming and misgendering. GLAAD recommended that Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube “make a policy commitment to protecting transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming users from targeted deadnaming and misgendering.”
TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram all allow users to add gender pronouns to their profiles. YouTube and Twitter don’t have a dedicated feature, though Twitter was reportedly working on this last year, so…where is it? Notably, the report notes Instagram’s feature is “currently not available to all users” and Facebook’s feature “is only available for users who select a custom gender and select one or more genders” — so you can’t just type in your pronouns; you have to pick from a list of gender options, then pick from three pronoun options (her/his/their). GLAAD recommended platforms with the feature should give users the option to customise who can see their gender pronouns for privacy.
Meanwhile, YouTube has long been criticised for hiding and demonetizing queer content, and GLAAD’s report hit this head-on, calling for the company to “show greater commitment to addressing demonetization and wrongful removal of LGBTQ creators and their content.”
“Despite advocates and LGBTQ creators raising concern over the removal and demonetization of LGBTQ-related content from ad services on YouTube, Alphabet only provides limited transparency on the state of demonetization and removal of LGBTQ creators and their content,” the report reads. GLAAD said Alphabet “does not disclose a comprehensive plan outlining concrete steps to address demonetization, filtering, and removal of LGBTQ creators” from YouTube.
Alphabet only provides limited transparency on the state of demonetization and removal of LGBTQ creators and their content.
Another major criticism of the Big Five in the report, unsurprisingly, is limited transparency around options users have to control data collection related to a user’s sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the report, Instagram and YouTube both “disclose[s] only limited information regarding the options users have” to control this. Facebook “discloses only limited options.” And both Twitter and TikTok do not disclose options to control this at all. GLAAD recommends giving users greater control over their own data — which we’d all love, right?
This leads to GLAAD’s findings about targeted ads based on a user’s gender identity or sexual orientation. GLAAD found Meta to have a clear ban on targeted ads based on “sensitive topics,” which included sexual orientation but not gender identity. The organisation recommended that “Instagram should make a commitment to not allowing third-party advertisers to target users based on their gender identity,” and that Facebook should disclose that it does not allow this. As for TikTok? Ad targeting policy reportedly changes by locality. “Rather than an outright ban of targeted advertising based on user’s sexual orientation and gender identity, limitations on ad targeting based on users’ sexual orientation depend on local laws,” GLAAD found.
Another area the index looked into was organisational: whether the company was actually committed to diversifying its workforce and hiring LGBTQ leads to assist with platform policy and provide evidence of having run formal training to educate employees on LGBTQ needs. Not one of the companies discloses whether it has an LGBTQ policy lead. Notably, “TikTok was the only company that did not disclose any information on steps it takes to diversify its workforce,” GLAAD added.