Social media, if not being utilized correctly, will continue to serve as a weapon against the already vulnerable LGBT community.
While social media provides a platform for the Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to unite and meet like-minded individuals, it also serves as a double-edged sword – as seen in the way sexual minorities continue to be silenced by social media giants worldwide.
Despite the increasing advocacy towards sexual orientation and gender identity in recent years, the thought of “coming out” online continues to remain as a daunting act for many. Not only do such fears stem from the reactions from people within one’s own network, it also involves potential confrontation or even cyber bullying from haters outside the network. The scale of such confrontation can range from negative comments to serious threatening. In order to encourage minorities to speak up in the cyber world, regulations ought to be tightened to protect these individuals.
Freedom of Expression
Social media platforms have always been under the close watch of regulators, and in some countries, the cyberpolice. Facebook, for example, have come under fire by the LGBT community for removing certain content that is regarded as “abusive” or “inappropriate”.
“Well, even in the public park, there are certain things you can change and cannot say,” acknowledged Facebook user Michele Ervin.
In May 2017, the NYC Dyke Bar Takeover group, the organizer for the lesbians events in New York have their post unpublished on Facebook, owing to the fact that the content was categorized as "hate speech" by the platform. Subsequently, the organizer of NYC's Dyke Disco Loretta Chung told NewNowNext that their monthly queer dance party cannot be promoted on Facebook due to its name.
Facebook inability to realize that "dyke" is not a slur but a word used by lesbians for decades have resulted in this unnecessary conflict. After the 72 hours period, the Facebook page reappeared again. Perhaps Facebook should update their hate-speech guidelines and general regulations by taking in gender and race in to account.
In another case that took place in March 2018, members of the LGBT community expressed their outrage following the ban of the word “queer” by Twitter. As part of the Twitter hateful content regulations, it treated the word "queer" as a slur regardless of how the word is being used. While different people have different interpretation of the word itself, Twitter’s act was being frowned upon due to the platform’s reckless handling of such sensitive content.
Instead of jumping into quick conclusions and banning the use of these words once and for all. Social media platforms should run thorough checks in terms of the context by using algorithms.
The LGBT community, which make up at least five per cent of the overall usage of social media channels in 2014 and 2015, is a growing group that ought not to be overlooked or undermined by the social media companies.
In order to ensure all the potential audiences and voices are being captured, it is crucial for social media companies to carry out in-depth studies on the group and take their needs into consideration prior implementing any relevant regulations.
With social media advancement, a growing number of LGBT individuals are able to come out online and express themselves. However, we should always ask and challenge whether the regulations implemented on the social media channels are necessary and whether they are being executed on a fair and reasonable basis.