Social media giants are failing their LGBTQ users, advocacy group warns

All five social media sites the researchers evaluated came up lacking.
person holding red mobile phne

GLAAD report finds social media companies lacking in protections for LGBTQ users. Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

When it comes to offering an inclusive and safe experience for LGBTQ users, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube all come up lacking, according to a new report by LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD. The 2022 Social Media Safety Index, released Wednesday, awarded each of the platforms a failing grade after taking into account policies related to LGBTQ “safety, privacy, and expression.” 

GLAAD, an organization working to combat LGBTQ discrimination in the media, graded the social media sites using a 12-point scorecard devised with Ranking Digital Rights and Goodwin Simon Strategic Research. Each platform was graded on a range of criteria from both the user-facing side to the company’s own internal practices. These include a user’s ability to self-identify with inclusive pronouns, the site’s “policy commitment to protect LGBTQ users,” and its efforts to diversify its workforce. Moderation policies and data usage and disclosure were also considered, among other factors.

All of the five social media sites the researchers evaluated scored less than 50 out of 100, with TikTok receiving the lowest score of 43 points, and Instagram receiving the highest, with 48 points.

[Related: ‘Hate is addictive’: TikTok’s new policies might do little for LGBTQ users’ safety]

In a statement released with the index, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis pointed to recent GLAAD research which found that 84 percent of LGBTQ adults believe social media companies don’t offer adequate protection against discrimination, and 40 percent don’t feel “welcomed and safe” using these platforms. That figure rises to 49 percent when looking at transgender and nonbinary users’ responses.

Ellis accused social media companies of “prioritizing profit over LGBTQ safety and lives,” and adding that discriminatory content online has a “real-world impact” of “driving hatred and violence” towards the LGBTQ community. 

This is the second year GLAAD has published a Social Media Safety Index. Following the inaugural report last year, GLAAD says TikTok changed its community guidelines to expressly prohibit hateful content including deadnaming and misgendering, a criteria that was part of this year’s assessment.

The new Index also offers specific recommendations for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube on how they can improve on these points moving forward. For example, one of GLAAD’s suggestions is for Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to clarify and enforce policies banning third-party advertisers from targeting users with ads based on their gender identity.