GLAAD today responded to TikTok’s announcement that it has updated its Community Guidelines to expressly prohibit misgendering, deadnaming, misogyny, and support or promotion of so-called “conversion therapy” programs on the platform. The explicit prohibition of these acts on TikTok comes following recommendations from gender justice advocacy group UltraViolet and GLAAD.
As of this morning, TikTok updated their Community Guidelines to include the following language: “Adding clarity on the types of hateful ideologies prohibited on our platform. This includes deadnaming, misgendering, or misogyny as well as content that supports or promotes conversion therapy programs. Though these ideologies have long been prohibited on TikTok, we’ve heard from creators and civil society organizations that it’s important to be explicit in our Community Guidelines. On top of this, we hope our recent feature enabling people to add their pronouns will encourage respectful and inclusive dialogue on our platform.”
“When anti-transgender actions like misgendering or deadnaming, or the promotion of so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ occur on platforms like TikTok, they create an unsafe environment for LGBTQ people online and too often lead to real world harm,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO. “TikTok’s move to expressly prohibit this harmful content in its Community Guidelines and to adopt recommendations made in GLAAD’s 2021 Social Media Safety Index raises the standard for LGBTQ safety online and sends a message that other platforms which claim to prioritize LGBTQ safety should follow suit with substantive actions like these.”
TikTok’s move to expressly prohibit this harmful content and to adopt recommendations made in @glaad’s Social Media Safety Index raises the standard for LGBTQ safety online and sends a message that other platforms should follow suit with substantive actions like these. https://t.co/1cTv1KlYHc
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) February 8, 2022
In November 2021, UltraViolet organized an open letter signed by over 75 groups, including GLAAD, which called on social media platforms to implement explicit policies to protect women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community, and offered clear and actionable recommendations on how to do so. GLAAD’s inaugural Social Media Safety Index and UltraViolet’s Social Media Report Card specifically recommend that TikTok implement an explicit policy to prohibit misgendering and deadnaming.
“TikTok has become a little safer for women, LGBQ and trans people today,” said Bridget Todd, Communications Director at UltraViolet, a national gender justice advocacy group. “We applaud TikTok for responding effectively to our recommendations and implementing them into an updated, more protective user policy. Even so, it’s clear social media platforms have a long way to go across the board.”
In May 2021, GLAAD launched its inaugural Social Media Safety Index, a 50-page report on LGBTQ user safety across five major social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. The Index offers the first-ever baseline evaluation of the LGBTQ user safety experience across the social media landscape and also provides concrete recommendations to all of the platforms to help them demonstrate their commitments to their LGBTQ users. The Social Media Safety Index was created with support from the Gill Foundation and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. The second annual Social Media Safety Index report will be released in mid-2022.
State of “Conversion Therapy” Promotion on Social Media Platforms
GLAAD also recently worked with TikTok to include the prohibition of so-called “conversion therapy” content as part of this latest update. The widely debunked practice of “conversion therapy” falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression and has been condemned by all major medical, psychiatric, and psychological organizations including the American Medical Association, and American Psychological Association. Globally, there has been a growing movement to ban conversion therapy at the national level, including bans in Canada, France, Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan. In the United States, 20 states and the District of Columbia have restrictions in place.
GLAAD has also requested that all social media platforms add a “conversion therapy” prohibition into their content and ad guidelines; Facebook/Instagram currently have such a prohibition at a lower tier of content moderation guidelines and GLAAD has asked that it be elevated to a higher tier. Notably, Pinterest also includes a prohibition against conversion therapy content as well as against misgendering and deadnaming.
State of Misgendering and Deadnaming on Social Media
Twitter is the only other major platform to explicitly prohibit misgendering and deadnaming in their hate and harassment policy. In 2021, GLAAD joined Media Matters for America and 18 other organizations in calling for YouTube to create a policy that explicitly bans creators from intentionally misgendering and deadnaming trans people as part of YouTube’s existing hate speech and harassment policies.
Thanks to our work w/ @glaad, @tiktok_us is banning misogyny, misgendering, deadnaming & conversion therapy on their platform https://t.co/gubtaAKkpJ https://t.co/VZk9yUHsQe pic.twitter.com/ztU9fb84jm
— UltraViolet wants to #LiberateAbortion (@UltraViolet) February 8, 2022
Deadnaming and misgendering have harmful real-world effects for the trans community. Misgendering is the practice of referring to a transgender person with the wrong gender. Revealing a transgender person’s former name without their consent – often referred to as “deadnaming” – is an invasion of privacy that undermines the trans person’s true authentic identity, and can put them at risk for discrimination, even violence. Studies have also found that many trans people who have been misgendered face increased levels of psychological stress and depression. The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all of the people they lived with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone with whom they lived.
Allowing anti-trans rhetoric and misinformation, including anti-trans practices like misgendering and deadnaming, to remain unchecked on social media platforms also has implications on the protection of the trans community. In 2021, there was an unprecedented number of bills introduced in state legislatures across the country targeting transgender people, primarily with a focus on restricting the rights of trans youth across sports, healthcare, and education. According to Freedom for All Americans, 2022 is already a record-setting year for state legislation targeting LGBTQ adults and children, with nearly 150 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed. Most bills (83) target transgender people and youth. Violence against the trans community also continues to increase, with 2021 being the deadliest year on record for the trans community. At least 53 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed, with the majority of victims being Black or Latinx trans women.