Instagram is launching a new anti-bullying feature to filter out “racist, sexist, homophobic” abuse in your DMs.
While Instagram already “proactively looks for hate speech or bullying” in public comments, the new feature will focus the abuse users receive in direct messages.
The new tool will filter DM requests, where users say they receive the most abusive messages, containing “offensive words, phrases and emojis”.
Users will be able to toggle filters on and off for DMs and comments in a new “Hidden Words” privacy section, where they will be able to add words, phrases and emojis that they don’t want to see in addition to a predefined list.
The list of terms already created by Instagram was developed in collaboration with “anti-discrimination and anti-bullying organisations”.
Instagram said: “We understand the impact that abusive content – whether it’s racist, sexist, homophobic, or any other kind of abuse – can have on people.
“Nobody should have to experience that on Instagram. But combatting abuse is a complex challenge and there isn’t one single step we can take to eliminate it completely.”
To further combat hate on the platform, Instagram will also start filtering common misspellings of offensive terms in public comments, “so that even if a word you don’t want to see is accidentally or deliberately spelled wrong, you still won’t see it in your comments”.
In addition, a third new feature means that when a user blocks someone, they will also be able to preemptively block any new accounts the user might create in the future.
The men were left “in mortal danger”, after their lawyer followed them to Chechnya and found they were being “pressured” to refuse legal representation.
Now, the Russian LGBT Network has been informed that the men are being held on the terrorism charge of aiding an illegal armed group.
The network said in a statement: “The investigation, however, did not provide objective evidence of the guilt of Ismail Isaev and Salekh Magamadov.”
On 8 February, the European Court of Human Rights “ordered Russia to explain the reasons for the detention of Magamadov and Isaev, to admit independent lawyers, medical workers, and their next of kin to them”.
But despite the order, legal representatives were not able to see their clients.
Sayputy Isaev, the 17-year-old’s father, said he was beaten and “blackmailed with the life of his son” if he did not sign a statement on the minor’s behalf to refuse a lawyer.
Magamadov and Isayev’s case is currently being considered, and they could face up to 15 years in prison in Chechnya. The men themselves said that “they had to sign statements and testimonies under threats and pressure”.
They are currently being held in SIZO no. 2, a pre-trial detention centre in Grozny, Chechnya.
You may have heard of Abby and Brittany Hensel before, either on Oprah, in Time…
In 2017, reports began to emerge of a “gay purge” in Chechnya, involving mass detention, abductions, torture and abuse of human rights against the LGBT+ community. Reports of such atrocities have continued in the years since.
The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadryov, has denied the reports as well the existence of any LGBT+ people in the region. He was hit with sanctions by the US government in July 2020 over the atrocities.
The UK government also ordered strict sanctions to be placed upon three top Chechen officials charged with torturing LGBT+ people in the region’s “gay purge” in December 2020.
Joe Biden’s new secretary of state has made several promises to the LGBT+ community, including “urgently” appointing an LGBT+ envoy.
Antony Blinken, who will lead the Biden-Harris administration’s Department of State, made the comments at his confirmation hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday (19 January), according to CNN.
He outlined changes he would make to ensure that the US government was “standing up for and defending” the LGBT+ community once Biden is in office.
The position of LGBT+ envoy, which was created to oversee US government efforts to support LGBT+ human rights, was left vacant during Trump’s presidency.
But Blinken said that filling the role was “a matter, I think, of some real urgency”.
He added: “We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTQI people around the world increase.
“We’ve seen, I believe, the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of colour, that we’ve seen ever.
“And so I think the United States playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people is something that the department is going to take on and take on immediately.”
The new secretary of state also said that while working for the Biden administration, he would officially repudiate the findings of Trump’s anti-LGBT+ “Commission on Unalienable Rights”.
The commission, which was supposedly based on “natural law”, was formed by the Trump administration in July, 2019, to undercut the US government’s existing human rights laws.
However, they told local radio station NEWS 95.7: “I’m happy that I’m able to share my story, but I would hope that MSI, moving forward, would be more proactive in changing and supporting trans individuals so it’s not a matter of people having to go through this process to human rights complaints to make sure that they are getting the support that they need.”
Community legal worker Mark Culligan told CBC that the change was a “real milestone”, and said: “The previous coverage was based on the understanding that transitioning happens from male to female, from female to male, and what was unique about Sebastian’s case was that they were asking for a surgery that more accurately reflected their identity as a non-binary individual.”
At the time, Patricia Arab, the minister of internal services, said: “A priority for our government is making sure we are as inclusive and diverse as possible, and making sure all our residents feel safe and that they have a place here.
“This isn’t the last step in the conversation but it’s certainly a significant move to make sure that we have a safe and inclusive community here in our province.”
The 34-year-old was studying and enjoying a quiet night in with her two goddaughters, aged 12 and 16, when she heard a fight breaking out outside her house in South Philadelphia.
When the group refused to disperse, she called emergency services, but one of the women turned on her and punched her in the face. The attacked and her friends then forced their way into Stephens’s house to continue the assault.
Recalling the attack in an interview with Human Rights Campaign, Stephens said: “I ended up in my dining room getting attacked by four women at all sides of me, and then suddenly one of the women picked up a wooden decorative planter and began hitting me about my head and face with it, causing me to become concussed and black out momentarily.
“Throughout the attack the woman referred to me as a ‘man’ and ‘tranny’.
“The assault did not end there. Several men stormed into the home as well and pulled the women away, but did not pull them away before getting a few hits in as well and calling me the N word and a ‘f**king tranny’.”
Police refused to arrest trans woman’s attacker.
Stephens was left with her nose broken in two places, bruised ribs, swelling on her face, a head contusion, “a busted lip” and damaged gum vessels that caused two of her teeth to become necrotic.
When the police arrived, however, they had little sympathy for the trans woman who had been brutally beaten.
“The responding police officers were very unhelpful,” said Stephens.
“They were belligerent and unsympathetic and refused to arrest one of my attackers, who I had ID’d to them (she was a few doors down continuing to hurl transphobic slurs while they were there).
“Furthermore, they said that by looking at my injuries, they regarded the incident as a simple assault, and as such, I had to make a private criminal complaint.”
While this was happening, her husband arrived home, and they both begged with police to take action. They left without confirming the attackers’ identities or making any arrests.
A man who showed up to an LGBT+ bar with a rifle intent on shooting the patrons inside will serve less than four years in prison, but was not convicted of a hate crime.
Freddie Lee Doyle, 32, previously pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm, and has been held without bail for about 14 months.
According to Metro Weekly, Doyle drove to Rehab Bar & Grill in St Louis, Missouri on June 27, 2019, equipped with a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, bipod, scope, tactical light, four full rifle magazines and about 160 rifle rounds.
When he arrived in his car, he approached a man who was leaving another LGBT+ venue. Doyle asked him to get into the vehicle, before grabbing a rifle and aiming it at him.
When the man fled, Doyle got out of the car and chased him, aiming the rifle at Rehab patrons and screaming obscenities and homophobic slurs. He then started a verbal countdown before firing the gun into the air.
Assistant US attorney Janea Lamar said police rushed to the scene after hearing the gunshot, but Doyle hid his gun and told them the shooter had run down an alley, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Police discovered the rifle a short time later and arrested Doyle. When the victims of the attempted shooting came to identify him, he began yelling homophobic slurs again.
In charging documents, FBI special agent Jennifer Drews wrote that Doyle said if he’d had more time, he would “have killed those faggots”.
Stephen Williams, defending, said that he had been under the influence of methamphetamine and had struggled with depression, anxiety and ADHD.
Chief judge Rodney Sippel, of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, sentenced Doyle 46 months in prison, less than four years.
Shockingly, the motive for Doyle’s crime was not discussed in court and was reported by the media as “unclear”, however prosecutors agreed to not charge him with a hate crime in exchange for his previous guilty plea.
Assistant attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said in a statement after the sentencing: “All people in this nation have the right to enjoy themselves at a bar and grill without fearing that they will be threatened, shot, and seriously injured or killed by bigoted criminals.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate this kind of hateful violence.
“The Civil Rights Division strives to protect all Americans from acts of aggression and violence based on their race, colour or sexual orientation.”
Donald Trump and his administration have given millions of dollars intended to protect small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic to anti-LGBT+ hate groups and homophobic televangelists.
According to the US Small Business Administration, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll”.
While the Trump administration initially resisted releasing information on which companies had been given PPP loans, on Tuesday, July 7, it released a list of companies that had been given more than $150,000.
According to LGBTQ Nation, the entire list contains just two prominent LGBT+ organisations – the National LGBTQ Task Force was approved for a loan between $350,000 and $1 million and the LGBTQ Victory Fund was given between $150,000 and $350,000.
But, according to the Trump administration data, religious groups and churches were given a total of $7.3 billion, anti-LGBT+ hate groups and homophobic televangelists were given up to $16 million in loans.
Which anti-LGBT+ hate groups were given loans by the Donald Trump administration?
Bryan Fischer, AFA director of issue analysis for government and public policy, has called for the criminalisation of gay sex, and said in 2010: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.”
He has also claimed that gay people are “rarely monogamous and have as many as 300 to 1,000 sexual partners over the course of a lifetime”.
Liberty Counsel, another hate group described by the SPLC as “a legal organisation advocating for anti-LGBT+ discrimination under the guise of religious liberty”, was granted a loan of up to $1 million by the Trump administration.
Joyce Meyer, another televangelist who once said people “chose” to be gay because they had been “hurt by somebody from the opposite sex, and they don’t know how to function right in those relationships”, was approved for a massive loan of between $5 million and $10 million.
West Virginia elected its first-ever openly trans official on Tuesday, June 9, making history and “shattering the lavender ceiling”.
Rosemary Ketchum, a trans woman, was elected as councilwoman and won her bid for the third ward seat in Wheeling City, West Virginia.
When she assumes her role on July 1, she will become one of only 27 openly trans elected officials in the whole of the United States, and one of four out LGBT+ officials in her state.
According to The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register, Ketchum said that although her gender identity was not a large part of her campaign and she thinks that “people had a lot more going on than thinking about a transgender candidate”, her election “matters a lot”.
She said: “I’m incredibly excited and grateful. I know this was a close race.
“I think it shows how much people care about the third ward… I’m excited to fulfil the promises I made and work for the third ward and and the entire city of Wheeling.”
Ketchum, an active community organiser who works at the National Alliance for Mental Illness, said on her campaign website: “From addiction to homelessness, I work every day to create real community-based solutions to some of our biggest problems.
“I believe that we must work WITH our community members to solve problems rather than without them or worse – against them.”
Mayor Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which backed Ketchum’s campaign, said in a statement: “Rosemary has shattered a lavender ceiling in West Virginia and will join the growing number of out trans elected officials serving nationwide.
“Trans people are severely underrepresented in elected office – with just 26 out trans officials anywhere in the country – so Rosemary’s victory will resonate well beyond her state.
“We know Rosemary’s race will inspire other trans people from conservative states to consider a run for office in their communities – and then those candidates will inspire others as well.
“That virtuous cycle is the key to building trans acceptance and political power long-term.”
AIDS activist group Act Up NY has called out US president Donald Trump for repeatedly calling COVID-19 the “China virus”.
Trump has been repeatedly using the terms “Chinese virus” and “China virus” to describe the coronavirus, prompting many to accuse him of promoting racism against Asian communities during the pandemic.
On March 18, Trump posted on Twitter: “I always treated the Chinese virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China – against the wishes of almost all.
“Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful and false!”
AIDS activism group Act Up NY responded: “We remember a time when HIV/AIDS was called ‘gay-related immune deficiency’ aka GRID and ‘gay cancer’.
“NEVER AGAIN will we let world leaders transfer blame to communities. Trust science over discrimination always.”
“Your own aide, secretary Azar, says he does not use this term. He says ethnicity does not cause the virus. Why do you keep using this? A lot of people say it’s racist.”
Trump responded: “‘Cause it comes from China. It’s not racist at all, no, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate.”
She continued to press him while he attempted to interrupt her, but he eventually said: “I have great love for all of the people from our country, but as you know China tried to say at one point … that it was caused by American soldiers. That can’t happen. It’s not gonna happen, not as long as I’m president. It comes from China.”
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies program, told CNN: “Viruses know no borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity or the colour of your skin or how much money you have in the bank. It’s really important that we be careful in the language we use.”
He added that this is “a time for solidarity. This is a time for facts. This is a time to move forward together.”
In 2020, there are 16 US states that still have sodomy laws against “perverted sexual practice” and “crimes against nature”.
According to ACLU, laws against sodomy were originally designed to prohibit any sex that was not for procreation, and so included crimes like having sex outside of marriage and bestiality.
But in the late 1960s, the laws began to be used to specifically target gay people, as an excuse for discrimination when gay rights progress was just starting to be made.
Some states rewrote their sodomy laws so that they would only apply to gay people, others ruled in court that they could not be applied to straight people.
In other states, no official change was made and sodomy laws were simply treated as if they only applied to gay people.
The laws were used to stop LGBT+ people raising children, to fire them or refuse them jobs and to generally discriminate against them and silence their voices.
Sodomy is illegal in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Three states specifically target their statutes at same-sex relations only: Kansas, Kentucky, and Texas.
In 2003, the case of Lawrence v Texas saw a same-sex couple prosecuted for sodomy for having sex in private. In a landmark Supreme Court decision, prohibiting private same-sex activity between consenting adults was ruled unconstitutional.
This, along with anti-discrimination laws, effectively invalidated any remaining sodomy laws, but it still remains technically illegal in 16 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas,Kentucky, Texas and South Carolina. In Kansas, Kentucky and Texas the laws solely target same-sex activity.
While it might not seem like a problem if the laws are invalidated, this has not stopped people being arrested for the “crime” in cases which are alarmingly recent.
Although the crimes were thrown out by judges, these cases show that archaic sodomy laws and still having a detrimental effect on the LGBT+ community.
Legislators in Maryland are debating this session whether to repeal sodomy laws in the state.
According to analysis by the Boston Sun editorial board: “Maryland allows for up to 10 years in prison and a $1,000 fine upon criminal conviction for various acts, including bestiality… Setting the intimate relations with animals aside (we dearly hope that’s covered under animal abuse laws), there is no reason for the state to criminalise sexual acts between consenting adults.
“It’s shameful this law is still on the books and in use.”