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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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“It’s simply not a safe space”: why LGBT Youth Scotland deleted its Twitter account

This opinion piece is 12 months old
 

"Deleting our account, which had a 33,000-strong following, was a decision not made lightly"

In an age dominated by social media, we made the bold decision to delete our Twitter account, our charity’s most followed social platform.

Since the end of 2022, the safeguards Twitter had in place to protect users have eroded, deeply contradicting the values of inclusion, respect, and empathy that we hold dear. Be in no doubt, this is a regressive step.

Our vision is simple yet powerful: a Scotland where LGBTQ+ young people flourish and thrive, no matter what flourishing and thriving means to them. To achieve this, we work tirelessly to support and amplify the voices of young LGBTQ+ people across Scotland.

Deleting our Twitter account, which had a 33,000-strong following, was a decision not made lightly.

We aspire to be a role model for inclusive policy and practice yet recent changes at Twitter render it an unsafe environment for LGBTQ+ young people.

The reinstatement of users previously banned for their hateful conduct is not only disheartening but poses a direct risk to those in the LGBTQ+ community. By allowing these individuals back, Twitter sets a dangerous precedent that anti-LGBTQ+ views are not only tolerated but even welcomed.

Combine that with a reduction in severity of actions taken for rule breakers with Twitter only suspending accounts that engage in “severe or ongoing, repeat violations”, those individuals have a platform that they can target others from.

Perhaps most distressing is Twitter's removal of protections against hateful conduct, including misgendering and deadnaming. This opens the floodgates to direct attacks on individuals through bullying and slurs, significantly increasing the risk faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

When coupled with the reduction in content moderation staff, serious concerns arise regarding the safety of the platform for all users, particularly young people. How can we ensure the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth when the platform they rely on fails to adequately protect them?

Disturbingly, recent reports confirm our fears. Amnesty International reported in February that 60% of LGBTQ+ organisations and activists witnessed an increase in hateful and abusive speech. The Center for Countering Digital Hate reported a staggering rise of at least 1458 anti-LGBTQ+ remarks per day since October.

This alarming trend confirms that Twitter is no longer the safe space we want to encourage young people to explore and learn about LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Guided by the voices and experiences of young people, we know that our role is to be there for LGBTQ+ youth, both online and offline. Our Life in Scotland research demonstrated that while young people see the internet as a space to explore their identities, it’s also a landscape they must navigate cautiously to find safe spaces.

We aspire to be role models in LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and practices. Regrettably, Twitter no longer aligns with this aspiration. We stand with LGBTQ+ youth in their quest for safety, support, and empowerment.

Twitter's abandonment of these principles not only endangers our community but also undermines the progress we have fought so hard to achieve. Together, we must create spaces that nurture the potential of all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dr Mhairi Crawford is chief executive, LGBT Youth Scotland. For more information on LGBT Youth Scotland, please visit: https://www.lgbtyouth.org.uk/