Anti-Trans Content Widespread on Meta Platforms, Says New GLAAD Report

Gabby Miller / Mar 27, 2024

The Meta logo on a smartphone in front of an image of CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and Threads continue to host a significant number of anti-trans hate content, according to the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD. Its new report, titled “Unsafe: Meta Fails to Moderate Extreme Anti-trans Hate Across Facebook, Instagram, and Threads,” details how Meta, in violation of its own Community Standards, allowed a number of anti-trans posts to remain active, despite months of GLAAD reporting the violations using the platform’s standard reporting systems. Policy violations ranged from the promotion of so-called “conversion therapy” to genocidal calls for the “eradication” of trans people.

Many of these posts were from high-follower accounts who profit off of the spread of hateful anti-LGBTQ narratives. The report is replete with examples of posts across Meta’s platforms that contain derogatory slurs overlaying images of gender non-conforming individuals, hateful posts that weave in antisemitic tropes, and, in one particularly egregious example, a post on Instagram depicting mob violence with a caption that calls trans people “devils.”

Fear-mongering posts containing lies, conspiracy theories, and violent rhetoric boost engagement and generate revenue not only for the owners of these hateful accounts, but also Meta and its shareholders, according to GLAAD. The report points to a 2022 study by Media Matters for America that found Meta profited from more than 150 ads containing “groomer” rhetoric, a long-debunked trope that baselessly characterizes LGBTQ people as a threat to minors. But posts deploying harmful stereotypes to dehumanize specific groups, like the ones highlighted in GLAAD’s report, are expressly prohibited from Meta’s platforms. According to Meta’s own policy, "dehumanizing comparisons” have “historically been used to attack, intimidate, or exclude specific groups, and that are often linked with offline violence.”

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GLAAD’s latest report comes on the heels of a January decision from The Oversight Board, the quasi-independent body that makes non-binding but precedent-setting content moderation decisions for Meta. The case involved a Facebook post in Poland where a user advocated for trans people to commit suicide, which Facebook decided to leave up despite 11 different users reporting the post a total of 12 times. In overturning the original decision, the Board stated that, “the fundamental issue in this case is not with the policies, but their enforcement. Meta’s repeated failure to take the correct enforcement action, despite multiple signals about the post’s harmful content, leads the Board to conclude the company is not living up to the ideals it has articulated on LGBTQIA+ safety.”

Similarly, in a June 2023 open letter, hundreds of LGBTQ celebrities, public figures and allies called on Meta and other social media companies to protect users against anti-transgender hate by better enforcing their existing content policies. The letter, facilitated by GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, was endorsed by Elliot Page, Laverne Cox, and Billy Porter, among others. However, nine months later, much of this type of extreme anti-trans hate continues to proliferate on Meta’s platforms.

GLAAD’s report breaks down anti-transgender content into more than a dozen “policy violation” categories. These range from content characterizing trans people as “perverts,” “predators,” and “demonic,” to mocking a victim of suicide, among other violative content types. For each example GLAAD cites, Meta either failed to take action against the hateful content or deemed them non-violative outright.

Much of the anti-LGBTQ content found on Meta’s platforms violates more than one of its policies, according to the report’s analysis. In a fairly straightforward example, GLAAD highlighted several Facebook posts promoting so-called “conversion therapy,” the widely debunked and harmful practice that attempts to change a queer person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These posts violate Meta’s Hate Speech policy (“Do not post: Content explicitly providing or offering to provide products or services that aim to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity”) as well as its Unrealistic Outcomes ads policy that explicitly bans “conversion therapy products or services.” And although Meta’s requires “additional information/context to enforce” its policy against harmful “conversion therapy,” GLAAD points out that the platform doesn’t provide a reporting mechanism to provide this.

Some anti-trans content led to mass harassment. In one example, GLAAD found a prominent anti-LGBTQ extremist account encouraging its followers to harass a gender nonconforming teacher and the elementary school the individual taught at, which led to a bomb threat and evacuation the following day. In another instance, two healthcare providers’ names and headshots were posted by a high follower, anti-LGBTQ account, suggesting users take violence against them with a prompt asking, “What do you think should be done to doctors that perform ‘gender affirming care’ surgeries on minors?” Meta’s Violence and Incitement policy promises to remove content that includes coded statements where violence is veiled or implicit, as shown by both a threat signal and contextual signal.

“The company’s ongoing failure to enforce its own policies against anti-LGBTQ, and especially anti-trans hate is simply unacceptable,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a press release accompanying the report. “The ongoing inaction and silence is an active choice, showing that Meta is not living up to its company values and most importantly, is not protecting its trans and gender nonconforming users.” At the time of publication, the example posts cited in the GLAAD report remain active on Meta’s platforms.


Gabby Miller
Gabby Miller is a staff writer at Tech Policy Press. She was previously a senior reporting fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, where she used investigative techniques to uncover the ways Big Tech companies invested in the news industry to advance their own policy interests. She’s an alu...