On Wednesday, the Oversight Board — the independent body that makes recommendations to Meta after people appeal decisions made about content on Facebook and Instagram — announced it will take a timely and significant anti-transgender hate content case under consideration.
The case importantly illuminates Meta’s systemic failure to protect LGBTQ users, an issue highlighted in the 2023 Social Media Safety Index (SMSI). GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis swiftly called out the company and its leadership, stating: “Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg should tell the world today that his company cares about the safety, rights, and dignity of transgender people. Meta must address this urgent and terrifying scourge of violent anti-trans hate content.” Ellis continues: “This hate on his platforms is causing dangerous and devastating real world harm, from anti-trans legislation to a stark uptick in violence. The weaponization of lies targeting historically marginalized groups has a long and terrible history and the spread of such disgusting bigotry should be vehemently and immediately denounced by Meta as firmly at odds with their company values.”
The case (“Post in Polish Targeting Trans People”), as summarized by the Oversight Board, is a clear example of anti-trans hate: “In April 2023, a Facebook user in Poland posted an image of a striped curtain in the blue, pink and white colors of the transgender flag. On the image, there is text overlay that says in Polish: ‘New technology. Curtains that hang themselves.’”
In response to multiple requests from users, Facebook’s human content moderators repeatedly determined that the anti-trans content was not in violation of their policies. It was only after the Oversight Board told Meta that they had chosen the case for review, that Meta removed the post. The Board will now take public comments until September 27, and then will adjudicate and issue their recommendations to Meta. While recommendations are not binding, Meta must respond to them within 60 days.
Such moderation may be more complex than recognizing basic slurs, as Jenni Olson, GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Program Senior Director, notes. “The post is clearly asserting the horrific sentiment that trans people should kill themselves. This should have been recognized by moderators as anti-trans hate and it wasn’t. This is why trust and safety teams must provide adequate training and guidance to their moderators on recognizing anti-trans hate. Meta is fully capable of implementing such training and yet continues to fail to prioritize it, resulting in epidemic levels of overt and coded anti-trans, and anti-LGBTQ hate across their Facebook, Instagram, and Threads platforms.”
As highlighted in GLAAD’s 2023 SMSI report, Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are largely failing to mitigate dangerous anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, despite such content conflicting with their own policies. The June 2023 SMSI also made the specific recommendation to Meta and others that they better train moderators on the needs of LGBTQ users, and enforce policies around anti-LGBTQ content across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions. A 2022 survey from GLAAD, UltraViolet, Women’s March, and Kairos also showed that a majority of Americans report seeing online threats of violence based on race, gender or sexual orientation and also experience harm by witnessing harassment against their communities, even when the posts aren’t about them individually.
GLAAD will submit a public comment, which will both discuss the case and illuminate larger systemic issues with the company’s hate speech policy enforcement and transparency. Coded hate content is all too common and targets all historically marginalized groups, creating real-world harms. From June 2022 – May 2023, GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s Center on Extremism documented more than 350 incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault. GLAAD and the ADL documented an additional 145 incidents of anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism nationwide during June 2023 alone.
GLAAD will also continue to advocate that Meta improves enforcement of their policies to better serve the safety, privacy, and expression of their LGBTQ users across all of their platforms — Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. In July GLAAD and HRC facilitated an urgent open letter to the platforms from 250+ LGBTQ and ally celebrities and influencers — including Elliot Page, Laverne Cox, Shawn Mendes, Ariana Grande, and Alyssa Milano — demanding that major social media companies stop the pervasive presence of anti-trans hate across their platforms.
Additional details can be found in GLAAD’s press release on the Oversight Board announcement.
About the GLAAD Social Media Safety program: GLAAD’s Social Media Safety program actively researches, monitors, and reports on a variety of issues facing LGBTQ social media users — with a focus on safety, privacy and expression — advocating for solutions in numerous realms. The annual Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) provides recommendations for the industry at large and reports on LGBTQ user safety across the five major social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. Learn more by reading the annual GLAAD Social Media Safety Index & Platform Scorecard here.