Oversight Board overturns Meta’s original decision to leave up a Facebook post targeting transgender people with violent speech saying: “the company is not living up to the ideals it has articulated on LGBTQIA+ safety.”

GLAAD President and CEO calls on Mark Zuckerberg to make public statement against anti-trans hate and to publicly share plan of action for addressing “epidemic of anti-trans hate” on Meta platforms

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As communicated broadly in official messaging today (January 16th, 2024), GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization responded to a new ruling announced by the Oversight Board (the body that makes consequential precedent-setting content moderation decisions on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram) in the important anti-transgender hate content case “Post in Polish Targeting Trans People” — full details on the ruling are here.

The Oversight Board overturned Meta’s original decision to leave up a Facebook post targeting transgender people with violent speech. The post, an egregious example of anti-trans hate advocating for transgender people to commit suicide, featured an image of a striped curtain in the blue, pink and white colors of the transgender flag with a text overlay in Polish saying: ‘New technology. Curtains that hang themselves.’

“I personally want to hear Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg tell the world, today, that his company cares about the safety, rights, and dignity of transgender people,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “This dangerous hate on his platforms is causing devastating real-world harm and it must stop. As GLAAD, HRC and 250+ LGBTQ celebrities and allies vehemently urged Meta back in July 2023, the company must urgently create and share an action plan for addressing the epidemic of anti-trans hate that runs rampant across Facebook, Instagram, and Threads — in violation of their own policies.”

In its decision issued on Tuesday January 16th, the Oversight Board ruled that the post violated both the Hate Speech and Suicide and Self-Injury Community Standards of Meta. The Board ruling echoes and affirms GLAAD’s longstanding guidance to Meta. The ruling states that: “the fundamental issue in this case is not with the policies, but their enforcement. Meta’s repeated failure to take the correct enforcement action, despite multiple signals about the post’s harmful content, leads the Board to conclude the company is not living up to the ideals it has articulated on LGBTQIA+ safety. The Board urges Meta to close enforcement gaps, including by improving internal guidance to reviewers [content moderators].”

The July 2023 open letter to social media platforms from 250+ LGBTQ and ally celebrities and influencers — including Elliot Page, Laverne Cox, Shawn Mendes, Ariana Grande, and Alyssa Milano — was facilitated by GLAAD and HRC, and demands that major social media companies, including Meta, create and publicly share a plan of action for steps they will be taking to stop the pervasive presence of anti-trans hate across their platforms, especially as such content violates their own hate speech policies. To date there has been no public response to the letter from any of the companies.

“This new Oversight Board ruling presents a vitally important opportunity for Meta,” Ellis continued. “The company must address this urgent and terrifying phenomenon of violent anti-trans hate content. The weaponization of lies targeting historically marginalized groups has a long and terrible history and the spread of such disgusting bigotry should be vehemently and immediately denounced by Meta as not in alignment with their company values.”

Jenni Olson, Senior Director of GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Program said of the ruling: “This is a powerful ruling from the Oversight Board that calls upon Meta to address failures we have been articulating for many years in the annual GLAAD Social Media Safety Index. Meta must urgently improve development and enforcement of their policies to better serve the safety, privacy, and expression of all of their users across all of their platforms.”

GLAAD’s September 2023 Public Comment to the Oversight Board for their adjudication of the case noted that: “Meta’s content moderators should have accurately enforced its policies in the first place. It is a serious problem that the post was only removed after the Oversight Board alerted Meta. This case powerfully illuminates highly consequential systemic failures with the company’s moderation practices that have broad implications for all anti-LGBTQ hate content, as well as for content that targets all historically marginalized groups. Such moderation may be more complex than recognizing basic slurs, but this is why the company must provide adequate training and guidance to its moderators on recognizing anti-trans hate. Meta is fully capable of implementing such training yet continues to fail to prioritize it, resulting in epidemic levels of anti-LGBTQ hate across its platforms.” Read GLAAD’s full public comment here.

One of the most glaring aspects of the case is that in response to multiple requests from users, Facebook’s human content moderators had repeatedly determined that the anti-trans content was not in violation of their policies. It was only after the Oversight Board told Meta that they had chosen the case for review, that Meta finally removed the post. Meta’s hate speech policy prohibits content that targets people on the basis of protected characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Board took public comments on the case through September 2023 before adjudicating and issuing this recommendation. While Oversight Board recommendations are not binding, Meta must respond to them within 60 days.

As highlighted in GLAAD’s 2023 Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) report, Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are largely failing to mitigate dangerous anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, despite such content conflicting with their own policies. The June 2023 SMSI also made the specific recommendation to Meta and others that they better train moderators on the needs of LGBTQ users, and enforce policies around anti-LGBTQ content across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions.


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