GLAAD launches Social Media Safety Program with tech and media expert Jenni Olson as Program Director

By GLAAD |
July 29, 2021

Today, GLAAD announced Jenni Olson as the organization’s new Social Media Safety Program Director. Olson will build and staff GLAAD’s work to grow safer spaces for LGBTQ people on social media platforms and apps as well as develop GLAAD’s public education and watchdog work to hold social media companies accountable to the LGBTQ community.

A leading voice in social media platform accountability, Olson spearheaded the organization's recently launched inaugural Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) report. Based on feedback from an advisory council of tech leaders, real-time testing of content policies, and an expansive literature review, the 50-page evaluation puts forth the first-ever baseline of LGBTQ user safety in tech and a roadmap of recommendations for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as the tech industry at large. The Social Media Safety Index was created with support from the Gill Foundation and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.

Key findings from the GLAAD Social Media Safety Index include:

  • Surveying the current landscape of leading social media platforms, the entire sector is effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.
  • Of special concern is the prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment, which stands out as the most significant problem in urgent need of improvement.
  • The problem of anti-LGBTQ hate speech and misinformation is a public health and safety issue.

The full report and details on the SMSI program are available here: http://glaad.org/smsi

Olson has worked in LGBTQ media and tech for decades and is best known as a co-founder of PlanetOut.com, the first major LGBTQ community website, created by a small team of tech pioneers in 1995. She is also an acclaimed filmmaker, LGBTQ film historian, and archivist. Amongst her many honors and achievements, she was named in 2020 to the Out Magazine Out 100 list for her contributions to LGBTQ culture and community, and in 2021 was awarded the prestigious Teddy Award by the Berlin Film Festival.

“The current unregulated, unsafe landscape of social media presents real harms to LGBTQ people,” said Olson. “GLAAD is advocating for solutions in numerous realms: online hate and harassment, AI bias, polarizing algorithms, data privacy. We’re working every day to hold platforms accountable and to secure safe online spaces for LGBTQ people.”

The SMSI and Social Media Safety Program are the latest additions to the GLAAD Media Institute. The Institute is home to GLAAD’s research and reports, including the organization’s pioneering reports on LGBTQ inclusion in television and film, as well as GLAAD’s consulting work with Hollywood, the video game industry, publishing, journalism, and global brands to ensure fair, accurate, and culture-changing LGBTQ representation.   

Under Olson’s leadership, the Social Media Safety program is spotlighting new and existing safety issues facing LGBTQ users in real-time both directly to the platforms and to the press and public. Next year’s SMSI will issue grades to demonstrate which companies prioritize LGBTQ safety.

“The tech industry must realize its obligation to protect its LGBTQ users,” said GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis. “We know these companies can make their products safer. With Jenni’s leadership and the power of so many top figures at the intersection of tech and LGBTQ advocacy on our advisory committee, GLAAD will continue to tirelessly advocate for these solutions.”

Olson previously served as VP of e-commerce and marketing at LGBT film distributor, Wolfe Video where she oversaw social media, communications and online sales and launched the global LGBT VOD platform, WolfeOnDemand.com. She is also past co-director of programming for Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival. In addition to serving on the board of the Jewish Film Institute, Olson sits on numerous advisory boards, including the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry at UCLA; the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Moving Image Preservation; and the Curve Foundation, devoted to LGBTQ+ women’s culture and history. She is also the proud proprietor of Butch.org.