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GLAAD gives social media failing grades over lack of protections for LGBTQ users

Findings: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube and all platforms receive scores under 50 out of 100

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Photo courtesy of Big Stock.

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, released the findings of its second annual Social Media Safety Index (SMSI), a report on LGBTQ user safety across five major social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.

The outcome says GLAAD is an utter failure to protect the safety of LGBTQ+ users.

The 2022 SMSI introduces a Platform Scorecard developed by GLAAD in partnership with Ranking Digital Rights and Goodwin Simon Strategic Research. The Platform Scorecard utilizes twelve LGBTQ-specific indicators to generate numeric ratings with regard to LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression. A listing of the indicators is available here and below. After reviewing the platforms on measures like explicit protections from hate and harassment for LGBTQ users, offering gender pronoun options on profiles, and prohibiting advertising that could be harmful and/or discriminatory to LGBTQ people, all platforms scored under a 50 out of a possible 100:

● Instagram: 48%

● Facebook: 46%

● Twitter: 45%

● YouTube: 45%

● TikTok: 43%

Primary Platform Scorecard indicators include:

● The company should disclose a policy commitment to protect LGBTQ users from harm, discrimination, harassment, and hate on the platform.

● The company should disclose an option for users to add pronouns to user profiles.

● The company should disclose a policy that expressly prohibits targeted deadnaming and misgendering of other users.

● The company should clearly disclose what options users have to control the company’s collection, inference, and use of information related to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

● The company should disclose training for content moderators, including those employed by contractors, that trains them on the needs of vulnerable users, including LGBTQ users.

“Today’s political and cultural landscapes demonstrate the real-life harmful effects of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and misinformation online,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “The hate and harassment, as well as misinformation and flat-out lies about LGBTQ people, that go viral on social media are creating real-world dangers, from legislation that harms our community to the recent threats of violence at Pride gatherings. Social media platforms are active participants in the rise of anti-LGBTQ cultural climate and their only response can be to urgently create safer products and policies, and then enforce those policies.”

GLAAD also released new data from a May 2022 study conducted with Community Marketing & Insights. 84% of LGBTQ adults agree there are not enough protections on social media to prevent discrimination, harassment, or disinformation. 40% of all LGBTQ adults, and 49% of transgender and nonbinary people, do not feel welcomed and safe on social media.

Additionally, the newly released 2022 ADL Online Hate and Harassment report found that 66% of LGBTQ users experienced harassment online, with 54% of LGBTQ users reporting severe harassment including sustained harassment, stalking, or doxxing.

In addition to the Platform Scorecard, GLAAD’s SMSI provides specific recommendations to each platform to improve LGBTQ safety.

Additional trends reported in the SMSI include:

● Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on social media translates to real-life harm, including reported levels of increased severe harassment for LGBTQ users when compared to 2021.

● The problem of anti-LGBTQ hate speech and misinformation continues to be a public health and safety issue. Viral misinformation and inaccuracies have been cited as drivers of many of the nearly 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in states around the country this year. Platforms are largely meeting this dangerous misinformation with inaction and often do not enforce their own policies regarding such content.

● Issues like the promotion of so-called “conversion therapy,” targeted misgendering and deadnaming, and lack of true transparency reporting, remain prevalent for select platforms. Only select platforms prohibit actions like targeted misgendering and the promotion of conversion therapy. These actions need to be prohibited across the industry.

● Companies possess the tools they need to effectively curb anti-LGBTQ hate and rhetoric but instead are prioritizing profit over LGBTQ safety and lives.

Recommendations across platforms include:

● Improve the design of algorithms that currently circulate and amplify harmful content, extremism, and hate.

● Train moderators to understand the needs of LGBTQ users, and to moderate across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions.

● Be transparent with regard to content moderation, community guidelines and terms of service policy implementation, and algorithm designs.

● Strengthen and enforce existing community guidelines and terms of service that protect LGBTQ people and others.

● Respect data privacy, especially where LGBTQ people are vulnerable to serious harms and violence. This includes ceasing the practice of targeted surveillance advertising, in which companies use powerful algorithms to recommend content to users in order to maximize profit.

The May 2021 inaugural edition of the Index was the first-ever and only tech-industry baseline of LGBTQ user safety. In this past year, GLAAD has worked with platforms and applauded major achievements within the tech accountability space, including TikTok’s amendment to its community guidelines in March 2022 in which an explicit prohibition against targeted misgendering and deadnaming was enacted, per the 2021 SMSI’s recommendation. As noted in this year’s SMSI, such a prohibition does not exist on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.

Congressional hearings, alarming research findings of the spread of misinformation, and massive media coverage have laid bare the urgent need for independent regulatory oversight of these companies — with virtually universal agreement about the need for industry-wide transparency and accountability. The GLAAD SMSI adds LGBTQ recommendations to this necessary and urgent dialogue.

“All platforms should follow the lead of TikTok and Twitter and should immediately incorporate an explicit prohibition against targeted misgendering and deadnaming of transgender and non-binary people into hateful conduct policies,” said GLAAD’s Senior Director of Social Media Safety, Jenni Olson. “This recommendation remains an especially high priority in our current landscape where anti-trans rhetoric and attacks are so prevalent, vicious, and harmful. We also urge these companies to effectively moderate such content and to enforce these policies.”

 

Read the entire report and its findings:

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National

Survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

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The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor, transgender spouse indicted for passing information to Russia

Jamie Lee Henry first active-duty Army officer to come out as trans

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Jamie Lee Henry and their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Photos from social media)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in a press release stated Anna Gabrielian, 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, 39, both of Rockville, Md., both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

Court documents indicate Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian Embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on Aug. 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the U.S. military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Henry identifies as a “transgender military physician” on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as trans.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving trans U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Washington Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1 in Baltimore.  

Henry, a major in the U.S. Army who held a secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the U.S. Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

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