- Trolls have outed people, threatened violence and pushed some to self-harm or suicide.
A massive eight in 10 LGBT+ have experienced abuse online in the last five years.
And trolls have threatened 63% of LGBT+ people with physical violence online.
Those are the two of the major findings of a new report out today from UK LGBT+ hate crime charity Galop.
The survey also found trans people were most likely to experience abuse online. A huge 93% of trans people have suffered abuse, compared to 70% of cisgender LGB+ people.
And the abuse is so bad it’s sending some LGBT+ people back into the closet on social media sites.
The report says four in 10 people used their online accounts less. While one in five removed LGBT+ information from their profiles or left social media altogether.
Most victims have suffered online hate repeatedly. Half have experienced hate more than 20 times and a fifth report 100 incidents.
What does online hate look like?
The five most common forms of online abuse against LGBT+ people are:
- Insults: 97% of cases
- Threats of physical violence: 63%
- Threats of sexual violence: 41%
- Death threats: 39%
- Outing: 34%
People in the survey also gave other examples of the kinds of hate they endured. They endured harassment, being misgendered, idicule, mocking, shaming, suicide baiting, stalking, bullying and revenge porn.
One commented: ‘It’s the constant low-level drip of hate that I get online, that’s the worst bit!’
People in the survey also said the hate often came from other LGBT+ people.
One said: ‘It angers and annoys me that there is so much hate from within the LGBT community towards each other.’
Unsurprisingly, transphobic ‘TERFs’ are among the worst offenders.
A victim said: ‘As a trans woman online, radical feminists have called me (and often all trans women) rapists and paedophiles hundreds of times.
‘The worst incidents involved threats to report me to the police on fabricated charges as “a man and a rapist”.’
Real-world outings and violent attacks
The researchers also found the online hate spilled into the real world with serious consequences.
One victim said: ‘After I was outed online my family disowned me and kicked me out. I now live with my partner’s family.’
And another said: ‘They contacted my employer and tried to get me fired by outing me.’
In other cases, this has even turned into physical violence.
One victim said: ‘The online threats of violence soon became real and I was assaulted when attending a youth group.’
And another revealed: ‘After receiving threats online I was threatened in person with injury and death and have been assaulted several times.’
Online hate victims blame themselves
Most don’t report online hate, often because it’s so frequent and they just want to forget it.
Just 44% told a social media company and only 7% told the police. And when they do tell the police, most aren’t happy with the response. In particular, 68% were dissatisfied because the police didn’t take action.
Likewise, 73% of those who told a social media company were unhappy because nothing happened. Most cases of abuse happened on Facebook and Twitter. But that could be because those platforms are the most popular among those surveyed.
Instead, some end up blaming themselves.
The researchers found a quarter of victims blame themselves and a third ‘self isolate’ in response.
Three-quarters of victims respond by feeling angry. But 40% get depressed and two- thirds suffer from anxiety.
One victim said: ‘The sheer amount of comments has made me hate my sexuality. I used to be very proud of it but now I just hate how and who I love.’
While another said: ‘It’s led to me having doubts about my identity and feeling guilty for being a trans man. It also made me feel gross and ashamed.’
Moreover, people said they cut themselves off from the LGBT+ world and ‘hid away’. And for some it was even worse.
One person said: ‘Following the incidents I became suicidal and attempted to take my own life.’
Meanwhile, another added: ‘I self-harmed due to disgust and self-blame from all the insults and comments I got.’
Galop says online hate is ‘poisoning social discourse’.
In a statement released with the report, the organisation added:
‘Despite progress on LGBT+ rights, online platforms remain hostile environments for many LGBT+ people.
‘At Galop we value free speech. However, free speech is increasingly used as a fig leaf to legitimise hatred.’
And Nik Noone, chief executive of Galop put the figures in the context of rising anti-LGBT+ hate crime since the Brexit refrerendum in 2016.
He said: ‘Recorded anti-LGBT+ hate crime has doubled in the last three years. This is reflected in the escalating scale, severity and complexity of online hate cases we are supporting at Galop.’
The researchers surveyed 700 LGBT+ people in the UK.