New LGBTQ+ online inclusivity toolkit
According to leading charity Stonewall, 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ individuals have been the victim of hate crime. Online social networking sites generate further opportunities for abuse. They are particularly harmful in the current context of widespread physical distancing and greater reliance on the Internet for work and life. Dr Rachela Colosi and Dr Nick Cowen from the School of Social and Political Sciences at UoL and Dr Megan Todd from UCLan have developed a toolkit for internet users to identify, challenge and prevent online abuse
Online abuse experienced by minorities is significant; in response to this, we carried out a study working with sexual and gender minorities about their experiences online. In collaboration with the affected communities, we have developed a toolkit for Internet users across communities and different stakeholders to identify, challenge and prevent online abuse.
Our study produced three key findings. First, sexual and gender minorities are stigmatised online, with trans individuals and people who practice kink reporting the highest rates of discrimination. Second, high rates of online abuse relate to several factors, which include: the anonymity of users, providing opportunities for hostile responses; the constraints imposed by online platforms, including limitations to bio descriptors; poorly worded terms and conditions; and weak reporting protocols for online abuse. Third, online platforms should take an active role in reducing and preventing online abuse, and users should be encouraged to challenge and report incidents. Legal professionals should work closely with victims of abuse and online platforms in identifying and addressing hate crimes. Also, schools and universities can play an important role in promoting understanding of diverse identities and relationships, which should be incorporated into their teaching.
The toolkit is divided into seven parts, which comprise of a series of related questions. In the first part we set out the purpose of the toolkit and provide some background information about sexual and gender minorities. The second section explores online abuse directed at sexual and gender minorities; here we provide some examples of users’ experiences of online discrimination. In the third part we suggest ways in which users can protect themselves from online hostility, including protocols for reporting discrimination. Finally, in parts four to seven, specific advice is offered to platform conveners, educators, and police forces; these more specifically targeted sections aim to broaden advice to relevant stakeholders.
To further promote the toolkit, we are working to develop an app and visual media that can be shared on online platforms. So far, the toolkit has generated interest from stakeholders including police officers focused on enhancing diversity within their forces, and educators interested in improving safety, student welfare, and inclusive conduct.