Sexism Report gives bad grades to Instagram, TikTok and Co.

The women’s rights organization UltraViolet has published a study and report cards on the subject of misogyny on social media. The frightening result: the platforms do not offer a safe environment for various groups such as Women of Color or members of the LGBTQ + community.

Revenge porn, misogyny, hate speech towards trans people, body shaming, and sexual harassment are just some of the serious problems that all social media present. The immensely large social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok can be seen as a reflection of society. Therefore, some of the darkest aspects of togetherness as well as a lack of decency, shamelessness and just as criminal energy in the digital dealings with fellow human beings also occur there in abundance.

The organization UltraViolet, which campaigns for feminism and cultural change and against sexism in all forms, is now underpinning in a study how hostile the environment of social media is, especially for women, but also for other people of different skin colors and different sexual orientations. In the study, the organization, in collaboration with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), evaluated various social platforms according to the US grading system – Harvard University in this case – for the report cards. From Facebook to YouTube, the platforms are consistently given poor ratings.

Instagram with the worst rating, even TikTok is not convincing

UltraViolet and the ISD jointly developed the social certificates over several weeks. The guidelines of the platforms as well as the reporting on them and their policies were included. After an examination of the guidelines by UltraViolet, the ISD assigned them a score between zero and four based on the proposals of the feminist organization for policies for the protection of various user groups. If the company receives a zero, the policy does not in any way address UltraViolet’s suggestions. A four would conform the guideline to the idea of ​​UltraViolet. UltraViolet then rated the average numerical rating based on the Harvard University Graduate School of Education rating system.

The result is frightening: only Reddit and Twitter received a C and C- and thus roughly the rating “satisfactory”. It’s getting gloomy for Instagram: the platform with over a billion users even receives an F in the report cards – the worst grade. With D +, the trend app TikTok is not doing well either.

Excerpt and final notes from the UltraViolet Report Cards, © UltraViolet

Bridget Todd, Head of Communications at UltraViolet, explained in the report on the study:

We released this report card and policy demands after ample time spent analyzing social media platforms’ hate speech policies and enforcement, or lack thereof.It’s apparent now more than ever that social media companies like Facebook are intentionally harming users by manipulating algorithms to spark addictive tendencies, preying on vulnerable young women and girls, and tolerating harassment against Black, Indigenous, and women of color, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, religious minorities, and other systemically oppressed communities. These companies have had long enough to fix their act. They must move to adopt these policies immediately, and Congress must step in and create regulations in order to further reduce the harms they cause to the public.

The damage that the social platforms Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube can potentially cause can hardly be estimated. Recently, for example, there have been reports that Instagram can have a toxic effect on young people and girls in particular, for example with regard to their own body image. However, the platform firmly rejects these allegations.

Misogyny and cyberstalking are not sufficiently contained, and dangerous content is not rigorously removed

UltraViolet evaluates a total of eleven categories on the six platforms. Among other things, it is about whether they offer a human-operated help desk when stalking, sexual harassment and other assaults have occurred. All platforms except Reddit (C) receive the worst rating here. The grades are more different, for example, when it comes to whether the transparency reports and the rules on hate speech cover topics such as misogyny, transmisogyny, cyberstalking, revenge porn, sexual harassment and disinformation on gender and ethnicity. Twitter and Reddit at least get a B here, also in the category that deals with whether a meaningful process for content removal in the event of repeated violations has been implemented. For the other platforms, the grades D and C are mostly included in the assessment.

Excerpt from the UltraViolet Report Cards
Excerpt from the UltraViolet Report Cards, © UltraViolet

All omissions and misconduct regarding the policies and especially in the enforcement of them can be found in Study document read up. After the entire analysis, the following grades were obtained for the platforms:

  • Facebook: D-
  • Instagram: F
  • Reddit: C
  • TikTok: D +
  • Twitter: C-
  • YouTube: D

The conclusion of the Report Cards is:

Across the board, social media platforms fail the test when it comes to creating an internet experience that is safe and inclusive for Black women, women of color, and LGBTQ people.

Letter to Zuckerberg and Co. calls for changes to guidelines on social media

Precisely because social media have become so relevant to everyday life, UltraViolet demands more control and the containment of hate speech, but also ideological conspiracy content:

Social media has become an almost ubiquitous part of modern life. Despite the advantages of keeping in touch on social media platforms, we can’t allow the companies behind them to peddle lies and conspiracy theories, or tacitly condone racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic attacks.

Together with 75 other organizations, the interest group has therefore a letter to the platform boss concerned: inside as written by Mark Zuckerberg or Susan Wojcicki. A sharp note is struck in it:

Black, Indigenous, and women of color and LGBTQ people are being harmed on the internet by an onslaught of racist and misogynist attacks. The actions of your companies – Alphabet, Facebook, Twitter, ByteDance, TikTok, and Reddit – have demonstrated that you care more about your profit margins than keeping people safe.

It is questionable whether the companies behind the platforms will actually adapt their guidelines based on the evaluation and criticism from UltraViolet. After all, this is only about one independent evaluation. However, the organization comes to similar conclusions as the whistleblower Frances Haugen, who is responsible for the Facebook files at the Wall Street Journal. Meta, Alpabet and Co. have to invest more in enforcing strict community rules from a PR point of view, but above all for reasons of protecting their users. Otherwise, the bad report issued for their platforms is likely to have economic consequences in the long run, and perhaps even to alarm the authorities.

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