GLAAD launches Digital Task Force of advocacy groups, tech companies, and community leaders to address anti-LGBTQ online bias

By GLAAD |
January 31, 2018

Last night GLAAD, The Webby Awards, and Conde Nast presented a panel discussion, ‘Preserving the Digital Lifeline for LGBTQ People,’ that addressed the unique lifelines and dangers that the Internet poses for LGBTQ people. At the event, held at WeWork Fulton Center, GLAAD announced the launch of the #digitaltaskforce, a coalition of advocacy groups, tech companies, and community leaders that will come together to address systemic problems in online bias.

Check out video of the panel here:  https://livestream.com/wework/events/8036664/videos/169547150

“GLAAD is the leading voice of LGBTQ acceptance, and a powerful force fighting back against the targeting and erasure of LGBTQ people that we are currently experiencing,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “As new challenges face the LGBTQ community, GLAAD creates new tools to fight back. Our digital work has spanned over a decade but today we are creating a new Digital Task Force that will directly address anti-LGBTQ bias online and will improve the daily lives and experiences of LGBTQ people."

The inaugural issue that the #digitaltaskforce will tackle is bias in machine learning, a product issue that affects the tech industry across brands. Machine learning that conflates good content with bad content and makes sweeping decisions, has been removing important, educational, and even life-saving LGBTQ content from the Internet -- including GLAAD’s information and resources on trans and bi people.

Major moments of LGBTQ issues in tech:

2010    

  • October Facebook creates Network of Support to address policy issues faced by the LGBTQ community in keeping the internet safe.

2014

  • February Facebook makes a product change to add a custom gender field for transgender and gender nonconforming people.
  • September Symantec recognizes its web filtering system penalizes LGBTQ content and makes a product change to treat LGBTQ content equally.

2015

  • June Facebook’s real-names policy unfairly suspends transgender users and drag queens from the platform.

2016

2017

  • June Tumblr's safe mode blocks LGBTQ content as NSFW
  • September Stanford research on AI that claims it can detect sexual orientation is placed under ethical review after GLAAD's Letter to the Editor of The Economist
  • September Google Jigsaw releases Perspective showing highest levels of toxicity for phrase “I am a gay black woman”
  • November Twitter blocks the words bisexual, gay, and queer from search results.
  • November Facebook ads from fake Russian accounts are released that use LGBTQ people as a wedge issue.

2018

  • January Google AdWords blocks bisexual and gay as sexually-explicit content
  • January YouTube Restricted Mode still filters out LGBTQ content
  • January Instagram shadowbanning reportedly filtering out hastags #gay #bi and #lesbian among many other hashtags
  • February Facebook denies the Trevor Project's ad because the copy contains the phrase" LGBTQ"

Any possible solution to bias in machine learning will require community involvement, and a seat at the table for LGBTQ experts when product decisions are being made. The GLAAD #digitaltaskforce is an important first step toward finding solutions to this and other issues of bias in tech that need to be addressed, and in working toward creating safer online spaces for all of us.

Sign up and stay connected with GLAAD’s digital work here.  

GLAAD #digital accomplishes the organization's mission of accelerating acceptance by protecting the digital lifeline that is vital for LGBTQ people. We work directly with tech companies on product and policy decisions, engage the LGBTQ community through online organizing, and create public discourse that simplifies and humanizes complex technical issues.

 

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