87% of LGBTQ+ youth in Ireland report witnessing or experiencing online abuse

In response to the findings, Belong To's It’s Our Social Media campaign calls on platforms to improve content moderation.

Two LGBTQ+ youth take selfie while holding signs launching social media campaign.
Image: Photograph: The Reelists, LGBTQ+ youth demand social media platforms take action against anti-LGBTQ+ content as part of ‘It’s Our Social Media’ a campaign by Belong To. Pictured at the launch are (l-r) Jamie Feery Canning and Jay Doherty.

Following a Belong To survey that showed that 87% of LGBTQ+ youth report witnessing or experiencing hate and harassment online, young people in Ireland are leading a campaign that calls on social media platforms to take action against hate speech.

Belong To is Ireland’s national LGBTQ+ youth organisation that advocates and campaigns on behalf of LGBTQ+ young people. For its latest study, the organisation surveyed over 1,200 LGBTQ+ students between the ages of 13 and 20 in all 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland about their experiences with anti-LGBTQ+ hate and harassment on social media in the past year.

Along with discovering the vast majority of LGBTQ+ youth had come across online abuse, the survey also found that after reporting harmful content, only 21% of participants saw action taken by the platform. In 12% of cases, the anti-LGBTQ+ content was removed, in 5% of cases, the offending accounts were banned, and in 4% of cases, the user was temporarily suspended.

Unfortunately, 79% of those surveyed said that the social media platform either did not respond or said that no community guidelines violation was found.

While Belong To acknowledges that social media is an important space for LGBTQ+ youth – it’s where users can connect with virtual queer communities, offer support, and learn from queer history and activists – it has also been experiencing a dramatic and dangerous rise in targeted hate speech and harassment in recent years.

Two weeks ago, ILGA Europe’s Annual Review revealed that 2022 saw the continent experience the “deadliest rise in anti-LGBTI+ violence in over a decade”. The report emphasised that hate speech translates into physical violence everywhere, even in progressive countries where hate crimes are criminalised and LGBTQ+ people are protected by laws.

In response to the survey findings, the It’s Our Social Media campaign officially launched on Monday, March 6. It demands that platforms moderate hateful content and consistently and effectively enforce their community guidelines.

The campaign calls for users to #FeedTheGood and #BlockTheBad to support their efforts to make these platforms safer for LGBTQ+ youth. Throughout the campaign, young queer people will share their online experiences and remind these platforms that they are responsible for moderating content.

Seventeen-year-old walks with campaign sign at launch of the Belong To ‘It’s OurSocial Media’ campaign.
Seventeen-year-old Jamie Feery Canning is pictured at the launch of the Belong To It’s Our
Social Media campaign.

At the campaign launch, Belong To CEO Moninne Griffith said, “Our research with LGBTQ+ youth highlights the urgent need for social media platforms to…prevent the spreading of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic content online.

“We are so thankful to each and every LGBTQ+ young person who shared their experiences and expertise to create this campaign with Belong To. It’s our social media – together, we can change it.”

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