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Facebook, Twitter, TikTok Receive Failing Grades on Protecting LGBTQ Users

In a new report, media watchdog GLAAD says the top social media platforms "are prioritizing profit over LGBTQ safety and lives."

A computer keyboard with keys that say "social media" and "hate"
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

While LGBTQ folks often turn to social media as a lifeline, the biggest platforms have failed the queer community, according to a new report from media watchdog GLAAD.

GLAAD's 2022 Social Media Safety Index, released Wednesday, rated Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok on criteria like gender pronoun options, explicit protections from hate and harassment, and prohibitions on potentially discriminatory advertising.

All five received less than 50 out of a possible 100, with Instagram topping the list at 48% and TikTok at the bottom at 43%.

"Today's political and cultural landscapes demonstrate the real-life harmful effects of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and misinformation online," GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a release. "Social media platforms are active participants in the rise of anti-LGBTQ cultural climate, and their only response should be to urgently create safer products and policies and then enforce those policies."

In an email, a spokesperson for Meta, the parent company of both Facebook and Instagram, said it prohibits "violent or dehumanizing content directed against people who identify as LGBTQ+" and will remove claims about someone's gender identity "upon their request."

The rep said Meta also works with advocacy groups "to identify additional measures we can implement through our products and policies." 

Twitter, YouTube and TikTok didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ellis blamed misinformation about LGBTQ people on social media for fueling "real-world dangers" like anti-trans legislation and threats of violence at recent Pride gatherings. In June, police in Idaho stopped members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front from disrupting a Pride in the Park event in Coeur d'Alene.

According to GLAAD's report, the leading platforms have the tools to curb hate-fueled rhetoric "but instead are prioritizing profit over LGBTQ safety and lives."

Read more: LGBTQ YouTubers Sue Google for Demonetizing and Restricting Videos

Jenni Olson, GLAAD's senior director of social media safety, did praise Twitter and TikTok for incorporating policies against intentionally misgendering and deadnaming transgender and nonbinary people.

Olson encouraged other platforms to take a similar stance, especially "in our current landscape, where anti-trans rhetoric and attacks are so prevalent, vicious and harmful."

Other recommendations included incorporating more tools for user expression, increased transparency on how policies protecting LGBTQ users are enforced and barring third-party advertisers from targeting users based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a May survey, GLAAD found that 84% of LGBTQ adults felt there were not enough protections against discrimination on social media, and 40% said they didn't feel welcome and safe on the platforms.