GLAAD is urging Meta to take immediate action following the company’s independent Oversight Board’s decision to overturn Facebook’s original stance on a post that targeted transgender people with violent language. The case has highlighted the insidious methods used to attack LGBTQ+ individuals on social media, such as coded language and indirect messaging.
The Oversight Board’s ruling overruled Meta’s original decision to leave up a contentious post that targeted transgender individuals with violent and harmful language. The post, originating from a user in Poland, displayed a curtain in the transgender Pride flag’s colors, coupled with text in Polish implying that transgender people should die by suicide — a clear violation of Meta’s Hate Speech and Suicide and Self-Injury Community Standards, the reviewing body found.
The board ruled that Meta’s handling of the controversial Facebook post revealed significant shortcomings in its content moderation process. The company initially failed to recognize and remove the post. Despite receiving multiple user reports, Meta’s automated and human review systems overlooked the post’s harmful implications and the coded language used to target the transgender community, the board found. Those coded references or using satirical memes to bypass moderators is a tactic called “malign creativity.”
It also revealed systemic failures in Meta’s moderation practices. Despite multiple user reports, the post was only removed after the Oversight Board selected it for review.
The case demonstrated a gap in Meta’s understanding and enforcement of its guidelines against hate speech and harmful content, allowing such damaging posts to remain on the platform, potentially contributing to a hostile online environment for LGBTQ+ individuals.
In response to the Oversight Board’s ruling, Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, appealed directly to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a press release to address this issue publicly.
“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,” Ellis said.
Ellis underlined the urgent need for Meta to confront and manage the spread of anti-trans hate on its platforms.
Senior director of GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Program, Jenni Olson, emphasized the long-standing issues in Meta’s policy implementation while celebrating the board’s decision.
“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,” Olson said.
The Oversight Board is an autonomous entity that reviews and renders binding verdicts on content moderation cases across Meta’s platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. Initiated in 2020, it operates similarly to a Supreme Court within social media and comprises specialists in various fields, including human rights, free speech, government, law, and ethics. The Board possesses the power to reverse decisions made by Meta regarding content moderation.
This case is one of many instances of Meta’s shortcomings in moderating harmful content. In September, The Advocatepublished a Media Matters for America report criticizing Instagram for failing to moderate content posted by the controversial anti-trans group Gays Against Groomers. Despite clear violations of Instagram’s community guidelines against hate speech, harassment, and misinformation, the group’s content remained accessible for over a year. This inconsistency in Instagram’s enforcement of content policies, particularly content targeting marginalized communities, raised questions about Meta’s commitment to LGBTQ+ safety. The report highlighted the discrepancy between Instagram’s response and other platforms like PayPal and Google, which had taken action against Gays Against Groomers.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgenderor gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.