Story at a glance

  • GLAAD released its first Social Media Safety Index, a report that analyzes the tech industry and its LGBTQ user safety guidelines and protocols.
  • The report analyzed the policies at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.
  • Both overarching and platform-specific recommendations on areas of improvement were given.

This week, GLAAD released its first Social Media Safety Index, a report that analyzes the tech industry and its LGBTQ user safety guidelines and protocols. 

Approximately 7 in 10 gay, lesbian or bisexual adults have been harassed on the internet, according to a Pew Research survey.

For GLAAD’s report, the nonprofit organization formed an advisory committee comprised of LGBTQ advocates and Silicon Valley staples to analyze the reports, policies and protocols for the five biggest social media tech platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Each platform analyzed in the report was then broken down into four branches of recommendations for better operations: content moderation; algorithms; self expression and LGBTQ inclusion; LGBTQ hiring, inclusion and leadership.

While each platform analyzed was also given specific recommendations, GLAAD’s report settled on five overarching needs for improvement.


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One major recommendation is for platforms to cease relying on algorithms that spread misinformation and artificial intelligence to moderate abusive content. 

“What happens is the algorithms bring you down a rabbit hole,” GLAAD’s chief executive, Sarah Kate Ellis, told The Wall Street Journal. “You might look up, ‘Who are trans people,’ and depending on what you get served initially — it could be misinformation, hate — and if you click that, you get served a lot more of the same thing, versus [companies] using their tools to serve up facts and truth.” 

Similarly, in cases where content moderation fails, the report states platforms need to make it easier for users to report abusive content, as well as utilize more human moderators to better catch such content.

To better train moderators and keep a better eye on the issues and abuse facing the community, GLAAD’s report recommends platforms hire a LGBTQ policy lead. 

“One of the recommendations in our report is that they have a dedicated LGBTQ policy lead who can speak to some of the nuances,” GLAAD’s chief communications officer Rich Ferraro told the Journal.

Stemming from this lack of representation, while some monitored trending topics and labeled misinformation, few platforms were found to take appropriate action to combat hate speech when it arose.

“We looked at the public-facing policies from these platforms: What do they have on the books in terms of harassment, hate and mis/disinformation, as it pertains to marginalized communities, specifically the LGBTQ community,” Ellis told the Journal. “Then we tested those policies to see if they were enforced and how they were enforced. What we determined is that a lot of the policies are in place. The challenge is they’re not being enforced, or they’re piecemeal.” 

As members of the LGBTQ community are at risk of abuse, the report states it’s crucial for platforms to respect their data privacy.

GLAAD hopes that by pointing out these lax protocols and policy failures and offering solutions, social media and the tech industry will become a safer and more inclusive environment.

“By creating this industry baseline,” Ferraro said, “we hope that we can create a level playing field and start to get the policies and the enforcement in a comparable setting.”


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Published on May 14, 2021