LGBTQ+ organisations across the world are increasingly choosing to quit one social media platform in particular due to a steady rise of ‘hate and vitriol’ against LGBTQ+ people.
Earlier this week, The Trevor Project, an American suicide prevention and crisis intervention organisation geared towards LGBTQ+ youth, announced it would be leaving X, formerly known as Twitter, following an increase in targeted hate which has been allowed online.
It’s been just over a year since Elon Musk took over the social media platform and any hopes that the billionaire would have revolutionised its handling of bullying, discrimination and abuse were near enough squashed right away - in fact, it has often felt at times that the entrepreneur has done his best to go the opposite way.
Earlier this year, Musk threatened temporary suspension on the app for users who used the terms “cis” or “cisgender”, whilst seemingly still allowing some transphobic and homophobic slurs to pass through the net as part of “free speech”.
The platform also quietly removed a policy earlier this year against the “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals”. X/Twitter also faced criticism earlier this month when it was revealed a ‘fact-free’ on detransitioning from an American conservative group was allowed to be promoted freely on the platform - despite having already been rejected by YouTube and several film festivals for its inaccuracies.
The move led the Human Rights Organisation to say the documentary does ‘nothing more than spread misinformation and stigmatise transgender people’. The group said: “Shame on Elon Musk and X for prioritising their bottom line over the lived experience and humanity of transgender people. Gender affirming care is safe, medically necessary, backed by decades of research, and supported by every major medical association.”
The group added that it was ‘another stain on the platform’ and described it as ‘not just immoral’ but ‘dangerous’..... But back to the Trevor Project, who said they were quitting the social media platform despite having 350,000 followers.
The group said it had contemplated the impact of leaving and how it would affect people accessing their services, but ultimately decided it was the right thing to do. In a statement, the Trevor Project said: “LGBTQ young people are regularly victimised at the expense of their mental health, and X’s removal of certain moderation functions makes it more difficult for us to create a welcoming space for them on this platform.
“In particular, we questioned whether leaving the platform would allow harmful narratives and rhetoric to prevail with one less voice to challenge them. Upon deep analysis, we’ve concluded that suspending our account is the right thing to do.”
They are not the only LGBTQ+ organisation to decide it is worthy enough to leave the platform. In recent years, LGBTQ Youth Scotland, Mermaids, and the San Francisco LGBT Centre are just a few to have opted out of X.
In June, LGBTQ+ media advocacy group GLAAD named X as the least safe social media platform for LGBTQ+ people in its annual Social Media Safety Index and Platform scorecard. At the time, the organisation described the platform as a ‘cesspool’ that ‘encourages dogfights’.
A spokesperson for the organisation said it was often contacted by members of the community who had fallen victim to doxxing - an online practice where personal information is released publicly in an attempt to harass an individual.
“There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t have a doxxing situation for somebody in our community that we have to come in and help them stop it and stop the hate, stop the vitriol and stop the attacks,” GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis told NBC News at the time. “It’s really been amped up to a level that we’ve never seen before.”
For his part, Musk has said he wants X/Twitter to be a “digital town square” that supports freedom of speech and differing views, but some LGBTQ+ organisations say that by having such stances on things, it’s led to the rise that we see today online when it comes to bullying and harassment.
Jenni Olson, GLAAD’s director of social media safety, said: “Freedom of speech does not mean I get to, you know, bully and harass people relentlessly. And that is why companies have hate speech policies, because ... if someone is bullying and harassing me that actually means that I don’t have freedom of speech because I’m afraid to say anything.”
The LGBTQ+ Bulletin reached out to X/Twitter for clarification on their approaches to tackling hate crime on the platform, but did not immediately reply with details. In an automated response, the platform simply said: “Busy now, please check back later.”
LGBTQ+ 16 November 2023