We Keep Us Safe: LGBTQ Digital Safety Guide
GLAAD’s quick guide to helping LGBTQ people to be more safe online
Everyone deserves to feel safe on social media. But at a time when the LGBTQ community faces increasing abuse and violence — online and off — we know that’s not always the reality.
GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Program works to hold the five major social media companies (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok) accountable, and to foster safer online spaces for LGBTQ people. These companies themselves should be doing a better job making their products safe, and the onus for safety should not fall so much on individual users. However, given our community’s need for assistance, GLAAD has pulled together this guide.
For LGBTQ activists and organizations, journalists and public figures, and for anyone who spends time online — the guidelines below are just a few easy best practices you can implement to protect yourself.
If you do nothing else, do these 4 things that can help prevent unnecessary risks. For simplicity, we’ve included direct links by platform.
- Review and adjust your privacy settings. Don’t reveal more information than necessary, and make sure what you share is only available to those you want to see it.
- Update your passwords so they are long and unique. Bonus points for storing them in a password manager.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA), an extra lock on your accounts. One-time password apps, like Google Authenticator or Authy, are more secure than text messages (SMS).
- Update your apps, systems, and software. Updates often include necessary security patches.
Other important online security practices:
- Install a password manager. Two options are Bitwarden (free) or 1Password.
- Discover what personal information is available online.
- Make a list of things connected to your identity, and search for them using an incognito browser. Then, adjust your privacy settings or request for services to delete your info.
- Protect your photos from abuse. Popular social media platforms provide ways to request photo removals.
- Learn how to recover your social accounts if you’re hacked.
Common scenarios and help guides
If you’re a target of online harassment or if you’re being doxxed:
Doxxing means that someone publicly released sensitive personal information, like your home address, phone number, or email. Journalists and activists are at higher risk of doxxing, because it’s a way to threaten or silence them.
- Take screenshots, create archive links, and record evidence.
- Report it to the platforms.
- If you have a public account, consider making it private. Or decide which accounts to lock or temporarily deactivate.
- Continue to monitor what’s happening, and collect evidence.
- Tell someone you trust, and practice self care.
- Consider filing a report with the ADL.
* If you are in immediate physical danger, consider contacting law enforcement. Since interfacing with the police carries its own risks, be sure to consider your own threat model.
When you see hate speech, or your content is unfairly taken down:
GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Index and Platform Scorecard found that the five major social media platforms continue to fail LGBTQ users when it comes to safety, privacy, and expression. The LGBTQ community not only faces outsized levels of online hate and harassment, we also experience disproportionate content removals and censorship.
- Report hate speech and unfair content removals to the platforms.
- Appeal results if necessary. Social media platforms don’t always get it right, and content moderators can have trouble recognizing hate speech and content removals affecting marginalized communities. Report notifications will explain how to request another review.
- For Facebook and Instagram, also consider escalating your case to the Oversight Board, which offers independent guidance to Meta regarding content on its platforms.
Additional Resources from PEN America:
One of the most helpful guides for navigating online abuse is this Slate article, “What To Do If You’re The Target Of Online Harassment” from Viktorya Vilk, PEN America’s Program Director for Digital Safety and Free Expression. PEN’s Online Harassment Field Manual helps define online abuse is and explains how to prepare, respond, practice self-care, request support, or provide support for others (also available in French and Spanish). PEN’s Digital Safety Snacks features hands-on short video workshops, including step-by-step guides for self-doxing and opting out of data brokers, two-factor authentication, password hygiene, and securing your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts, and more.
About the GLAAD Social Media Safety Program
As the leading national LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD is working every day to hold tech companies and social media platforms accountable, and to secure safe online spaces for LGBTQ people. 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: online hate and harassment, AI bias, polarizing algorithms, data privacy, and more. 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.