Unfortunately, online hate, bullying, mean comments or trolling is still very much an issue in the everyday life of LGBTI people. We need to keep working to eradicate it. But when it happens and someone overcomes it, our resilience as a community grows.
Here are some stories of online hate that had a positive outcome, that grew the resilience of the person experiencing it, or that strengthened the community that was under attack.
These stories are from comments in a survey about the experiences of online hate crime within the LGBTI community. They have been edited for readability and to preserve anonymity.
“Once I explained to Facebook about what had happened and how it had affected me, they took the incident extremely seriously. They read the entire thread and saw the bigger picture. As a result, they removed a decent amount of the comments that I had reported and two of the perpetrators received seven-day bans, which is the best outcome I have personally ever seen.”
“I received a large amount of abuse on a photo I posted, which really upset me and made me feel ashamed. However, I also received a number of positive comments from friends, family and others which reassured me that there was nothing wrong with my sexuality.”
Steven is a bisexual man in his 40s. He is an avid snow sports fan. He had accounts on different dating sites which he set up several years ago. He recently married Jane. Before doing so, he had deactivated his accounts on the dating websites specifically for the LGBTI community, but had not removed his profiles. He had planned to do this, but in the hectic planning of the wedding, he had forgotten about them. Steven has not told Jane about his sexuality.
Steven began talking to people who were interested in the same snow sports as him on Twitter’s direct messaging service. The group invited him into a group chat on a video-chat website.
Someone from the group chat had found Steven’s online dating profile. They threatened to disclose Steven’s sexuality to his wife. On the video chat, they began pressuring him into undressing on the chat, which he eventually did. One member took images of Steven, and began blackmailing him with the images. He demanded that Steven send more images of a sexual nature or he would post the images on Facebook and Twitter.
Steven at first ignored the threats. After a week, the group chat member began posting the screenshots on an anonymous website with unpleasant and threatening captions. They kept taking the images down and reposting them again on different websites, making it very difficult for Steven to know where the images were.
Steven, with help from his friends and family, contacted the police and the video-chat website. They helped him find out the IP address of the group chat member who took the screenshots. The IP address helped the police locate the perpetrator. They were convicted of blackmail and the offence of disclosing private sexual images with intent to cause distress. The perpetrator was sentenced to 1 year in prison.
The posting of sexual photos or videos of adults online without the person’s consent is a crime.
If you have experienced this issue and there are still images online, you can contact the Revenge Porn Helpline on 0845 6000 459.
If you have experienced this issue and need free legal advice contact the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre.
Dan was a trans man in his 40s who lived with his partner Sarah. Dan used a wheelchair and their flat was adapted to Dan’s needs.
Dan had reported persistent transphobic abuse by his neighbours. The harassment escalated from graffiti and verbal abuse to smashing windows, poisoning their cat and eventually a violent burglary, during which Dan was brutally beaten.
The attackers were caught and sentenced to terms in prison. Dan and Sarah thought this was the end of their ordeal but the day after the trial ended the free newspaper was delivered, with a big front-page headline saying ‘Transvestite attacked. Did his attackers know he was really a woman?’. Dan and Sarah were devastated by this reporting, which was both insulting and factually incorrect. Dan and his wife were named and their address published. This was quickly picked up online and tweeted. A family member was tricked into disclosing Dan’s previous name, which was shared on twitter. Dan was outed at work, local young people began hanging around the estate and shouting comments, and Sarah’s family found out that they weren’t legally married and her husband had a trans history.
In desperation, Sarah contacted the local LGBTI organisation, which immediately put them in touch with Trans Media Watch who challenged the newspaper on its transphobic reporting, leading to an apology and amendment of the article online. A formal complaint was made to the Press Complaints Commission. Sarah and Dan used Twitter’s reporting mechanism to get the tweets stopped and reported to the police. Pressure was put on the local council to move Dan and Sarah to a new property.
Since 2017 the National LGBTI rights organization LGL actively participates in yearly 6-week cycles of monitoring hate speech on social media. During the fifth monitoring cycle, LGL reported 1000 illegal hate speech comments on Facebook. Facebook deleted 942 illegal comments.
In order to solve the problem of incitement to hatred on social media at the EU level, the European Commission introduced the EU Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online in 2016. This is a codex under which participating social media platforms are required to take measures specified in the document to combat instances of unwanted hate speech on their websites, and submit to a hate speech monitoring process. Major players like Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Youtube immediately pledged to comply with the Code of Conduct. These platforms agreed to review users’ complaints about potential instances of hate speech within 24 hours of report, and, in accordance with laws effective in certain EU member states, delete recordings, comments, illustrations, pages, video clips and event pages promoting hate speech. Social media platforms complying with the Code of Conduct are also required to accept feedback from users who have reported hate speech and take appropriate measures for transparency.
NGOs participate in this process as “trusted flaggers”. This means that social media platforms complying with the Code of Conduct recognize that NGOs working with groups marginalized on grounds under which one is protected from hate speech (age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, nationality, language, ethnicity, social class, religion or belief) are best-equipped to recognize hate speech against the group that they represent, so reports from these experts must be evaluated quickly and thoroughly.
On June 7th, 2019 a Hate Crimes Workshop with police officers from Sweden and Lithuania was organized on the occasion of the Baltic Pride festival in Vilnius.
Representatives of Stockholm Police shared their good practices in combating hate crimes, providing support for the victims who suffered from such crimes because of their sexual orientation and/or sexual identity, providing training to Lithuanian police officers and protecting the participants of Pride Parade in Stockholm.
“Pride parade in Stockholm is more like a party than a protest. In 2018, during “EuroPride” in Stockholm, there were 55 000-60 000 participants and around 500 000 spectators. Families dressed their children in rainbow colors and everybody was celebrating equality. 95 % of the spectators are heterosexual. It’s like the carnival in Rio de Janeiro. It’s an unforgettable event.” – said participant of our discussion, inspector of Hate Crimes division within Stockholm police and founder of the Swedish LGBTI Police Association, Göran Stanton.
The Estonian LGBTI Association organised a Pride parade in Tallinn in 2017. One online portal publicly called people to go and protest against LGBTI community during Pride. The association contacted a web constable and informed the police about this public call to disrupt Pride. The web constable mapped and analysed this situation and based on that contacted the portal administrator to explain what is allowed and what is not. In addition, the web contable informed the area’s police department so that the police would be informed and prepared.
The Estonian LGBTI Association considers this kind of police response to be a good example of how to tackle homophobia in the public space. The web constable kept the association informed throughout the process. This instilled a sense of security that police were handling the situation to the best of their ability.