Violence against LGBTQI+ people has increased in Turkey through social media. New research by the Feminist Internet Research Network looks into experiences from this community and makes recommendations to media, human rights organisations, LGBTQIA+ organisations and social media platforms in addressing online gender-based violence.
Turkey is the second worst country in the region when it comes to LGBTQI+ rights
In recent decades, Turkey has gone through drastic social and political changes. Stricter security measures have had a huge impact on human rights in general and LGBTQI+ and feminist movements in particular. According to ILGA-Europe's Rainbow Europe Map and Index 2021, Turkey is the second worst country in the region when it comes to LGBTI rights.
The new study All of a Sudden: Research on digital violence against LGBTQI+ communities in Turkiye, led by prominent news portal KAOS GL, focuses on the dismal state of LGBTQI+ rights in Turkey and the online-offline interconnections.
Findings reveal that the intensity of hate speech and digital violence targeted at LGBTQI+ and feminist communities is very high on online platforms. This goes hand in hand with the global anti-gender rights rhetoric promoted by authoritarian leaders and the Turkish government’s high-level politicians and representatives, and is exacerbated by the lack of legal protection against hate speech.
Through periodic social media monitoring, the study found that Twitter accounted for most of this hate speech at 56.7%, followed by Instagram at 52.4%, whereas respondents also reported high levels of hateful attacks on Facebook, dating apps, online games and WhatsApp. Results of the study indicated that nine out of every 10 LGBTQI+ individuals are victims of digital violence. They also show that the effects of violence on social media have a devastating impact on self-expression. Most of the LGBTQI+ people who have been the target of digital violence said there was long-term damage or harm to their mental health.
The role of media
When it comes to the perpetrators, 78.3% of the participants answered that the perpetrators were “people unknown to me.” In cases where the identity was known to the survivor, a significant portion of the perpetrators were people from their social circles, such as friends, family and partners, as well as politicians, journalists and academics. Among the perpetrators, the findings reveal that some journalists are responsible for actively spreading hate speech, and they constitute a group that needs to be specifically examined. The media in Turkey is one of the key areas that leads the production and dissemination of hate speech against LGBTQI+ communities.
The following quote from an activist who was subjected to an online hate campaign shows the level of escalation of digital violence towards members of LGBTQI+ communities:
All of a sudden, I found myself encountering a journalist whose existence was totally unknown to me until that moment, and the audience she mobilised. It was upon the advocacy and training activities I conducted, and the materials I produced, that this targeting started. (...) I was subject to harsh insults by the journalist who started this whole process of targeting and violence, and by the audience she invited to use the hateful discourse against me. (...) These included threats of physical violence and sexual violence in particular.
The report's authors conclude that, based on the study's findings, media, human rights organisations, LGBTQI+ organisations, social media platforms and dating apps each have their own responsibility in addressing the issue of online gender-based violence. Further work to analyse the digital climate for the queer community is needed, as well as updating them on the current active protective and preventive mechanisms. Psychosocial and well-being support is also crucial. Further advocacy strategies to put censorship of LGBTQI+ users in the spotlight need to be created, and more advocacy work towards social media platforms is needed for these communities.
Read the full study.
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