Galop Evidence on online anti-LGBT+ Hate Speech
We’ve prepared an evidence document on the rise of anti-LGBT+ hate speech for the government’s Online Harms Consultation.
You can download the full document here or read the executive summary below.
We welcome the White Paper proposals
We have been encouraged by the actions taken by leading social media companies toward tackling online hate. Despite this, anti-LGBT hate speech continues to flourish online and online platforms remain hostile places for LGBT+ people. Against this background we welcome the framework set out by the consultation document.
Regulation must be accompanied by reform of criminal offences
We value free speech. It is a cornerstone of our society that allows LGBT+ people to speak up for their rights, even when they are considered dangerous, immoral or illegal. However, free speech is increasingly used as a fig leaf to legitimise hatred toward minority communities, to spread falsehoods and to attack individuals. Our preferred position would be to defend legitimate free speech but we can only hold this position if online hate content is effectively dealt with. As current hate speech laws that deal with anti-LGBT hate speech are laughably weak in the case of sexual orientation and non-existent in the case of transphobia, this condition is not currently met. We therefore call for an overhaul of hate speech laws to bring all recognised strands up to the same level of protection. Failing that, we must reluctantly, but forcefully call for regulation that extends beyond illegal hate speech and encompasses harmful but non-criminal online hate content.
LGBT+ communities face high levels of online abuse
Despite progress on LGBT+ rights, online platforms remain hostile environments for LGBT+ people. The National LGBT Survey 2018 found that 40% of LGBT+ people had experienced a hate crime in the last 12 months (Government Equalities Office 2018:33) and the Online Hate Crime report found that 30% of LGBT+ people had experienced an online hate crime (Galop, 2018).
Anti-LGBT prejudice has been able to flourish unchecked online
The extent of prejudice driving these acts of violence and abuse is evidenced by forthcoming polling data commissioned by Galop. It highlighted the following:
1 in 10 of those polled felt that LGBT+ people are ‘dangerous to other people’.
A similar proportion felt that LGBT+ identity can be ‘cured’.
Nearly 1 in 5 people said being LGBT+ was ‘immoral’ or ‘against their beliefs’.
Alarmingly, this rose to 1 in 4 among young people, showing a disturbing generational shift toward anti-LGBT prejudice. This goes against previous trends of young people holding more positive views toward LGBT+ people than other age groups.
There has been a large rise in recorded hate crime
Recorded anti-LGBT hate crime has doubled in just four years (House of Commons Library, 2019). The past year has also seen an escalation in the activities of transphobic hate groups aiming to target trans people, adding to the high levels of transphobic harassment, intimidation and violence. Meanwhile, there has been a growing parents movement calling for the removal of inclusive messages in schools, fuelled by fear and hostility toward LGBT+ people.
Online hate has deep and lasting impacts on victims
People who experience hate crime are more than twice as likely to face serious emotional impacts such as difficultly sleeping, anxiety, panic attacks or depression, compared with people who experience crime in general (Home Office 2018: 28).
It makes communities feel fearful and unable to live openly
Hate crime limits the ability of people to live open and fulfilled lives. Most LGB people avoid holding hands in public for fear of a negative reaction (68%). In addition, most trans people avoid being open about their gender identity in order to lower the risk of experiencing transphobic abuse (67%) (Government Equalities Office 2018: 33).