A survey conducted by YouGov and commissioned by GLAAD, Kairos, UltraViolet and Women’s March did not paint a pretty picture of the online experience for LGBTQ+ people, people of color and women—and the survey was conducted months before Elon Musk took over Twitter and gutted its internal and contract content moderation teams.
The survey of 1,235 American social media users, conducted from July 7 through 22, found that LGBTQ+ people, people of color and women experience higher levels of harassment and threats of violence on social media than other users, with 57% of respondents reporting that they saw posts calling for physical violence based on a person’s race, gender or sexuality.
People in those marginalized groups also reported experiencing harm from witnessing harassment against their communities, even if they were not directly targeted themselves.
YouGov found that individuals belonging to marginalized communities tended to notice attacks against their communities more than non-marginalized groups did, with 88% of respondents in the LGBTQ+ sample group saying they saw a post that insults or attacks LGBTQ+ individuals, while just 64% of respondents in the base sample indicated the same.
Other examples of that trend included:
- 52% of LGBTQ+ respondents said they have experienced harassment based on their sexual orientation, while only about 14%of the base sample said the same.
- 31% of LGBTQ+ people have been harassed due to their gender identity, while just 12% of the base sample experienced the same.
- 38% of people of color reported facing race- or ethnicity-based harassment, while only 15% of white respondents said the same.
- 25% of women reported experiencing appearance-based harassment, compared with 17% of men.
YouGov found that 61% of overall respondents believe hate speech is a major problem, with LGBTQ+ people 14% more likely than the general population to call it an issue in online spaces, and women 19% more likely to say hate speech is problematic.
Nearly one-third of Americans overall, women and people of color said social media platforms are doing a poor job at addressing online harassment on their sites, while nearly two in five LGBTQ+ respondents said the same.
GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement, “The alarming poll results reinforce just how badly social media companies are failing when it comes to protecting LGBTQ and other marginalized communities online. At a time when online hate and harassment is leading to real-world threats and violence, these companies must make urgent improvements to enforcement of content and ad policies. Everyone deserves to feel safe on social media.”
Kairos executive director Mariana Ruiz Firmat added, “Our lives online are parallel to our offline lives. We have been in a moment when more and more people are using the internet to connect with each other and get information. But, at the same time, we’re also seeing how online hate speech and harassment result in offline violence. These polling results show the consequences of social media companies not doing enough to protect the users that make or break their platforms. It’s past time for these companies to make the decision to protect Black and brown communities, LGBTQ+ people and women.”
UltraViolet communications director Bridget Todd said, “Meta, Google, TikTok and Twitter can say they value diversity and inclusion, but these results and the lived experiences of countless POC, women and LGBTQ+ people speak for themselves. Social media companies are failing POC, women and LGBTQ+ communities. As a Black woman with a prominent online presence, I experience harassment regularly, and this study shows that I am not alone in this experience. Online hate has created real-world violence, everywhere from El Paso, Texas; Charlottesville, Va.; Atlanta; Buffalo, N.Y.; the Boston Children’s Hospital; the home of Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and the halls of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The white wealthy men like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk who own these platforms don’t share these experiences of being harassed regularly because of their gender, sexuality, race or nationality. They profit from spreading white supremacy, misogyny, transphobia and homophobia without any accountability. We remain adamant about encouraging stark improvements of comment moderation, banning hateful language, threats of violence and disinformation from all social media platforms. If the platforms cannot regulate themselves, then the government should.”
And Women’s March senior director of programs Amanda Chavez Barnes added, “Platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—as much as they may hope or claim to be—are just not healthy places for women, people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.Our online lives are deep and meaningful, but for too many people, harassment and hate are part of the daily user experience. Platforms can and must do better.”