Story at a glance
- Tech giants like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have failed to stop the spread of conversion therapy disinformation, according to two new reports from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.
- Online searches for “conversion therapy” generally yield authoritative results, but searches for related terms like “reintegrative therapy” and “same-sex attraction” typically call up information from unreliable sources.
- Authors of the reports said they hope their research will help tech companies weed out harmful conversion therapy disinformation and anti-LGBTQ+ conspiracy theories from their platforms.
Tech companies have failed to deplatform anti-LGBTQ+ groups pushing conversion therapy disinformation online, allowing false claims about these practices to spread like wildfire, according to two new reports from the nonprofit Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE).
Tech giants like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all claim to have taken steps to crack down on conversion therapy information posted online. But a GPAHE report published last week claims it is “distressingly easy” to find related anti-LGBTQ+ content and conspiracy theories through “simple searches.”
“Tech companies say they have taken steps to ban harmful content related to conversion therapy, but they have to do more, especially in non-English languages,” Wendy Via, president and co-founder of GPAHE and the one of the report’s authors, said in a statement.
“Until online searches lead people to only authoritative information about the dangers of conversion therapy, tech companies are complicit in spreading anti-LGBTQ+ hate and disinformation that causes mental and physical harm for individuals, and furthers societal harm,” she said.
Conversion therapy, a pseudoscientific practice aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, uses techniques like electric shock, deprivation of food and water and hypnosis, according to a United Nations report.
The American Medical Association has called conversion practices ineffective and based on an “unfounded misconception of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
According to the GPAHE report, the search term “conversion therapy” generally returns reliable, authoritative results in all languages except Swahili. But results vary by country for terms like “reparative therapy,” and are generally unreliable for “same-sex attraction” and “reintegrative therapy” – synonymous with conversion therapy in some contexts.
A second GPAHE report published last week profiles more than two dozen conversion therapy providers across the globe.
“We hope these reports help tech companies clean up their platforms when it comes to anti-LGBTQ+ conversion therapy material,” Heidi Beirich, report co-author and co-founder of GPAHE, said in a statement. “Getting rid of this harmful material online is an important step toward creating a society where LGBTQ+ people are accepted and loved and nobody feels like they want or need to change who they are.”
“No more hate. That’s the overall goal,” she said.
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