Social media double-edged sword for LGBT+ Asia, advocates say


Calling on social media companies, human rights campaigners from across the Asian region said that more must be done to keep LGBT+ people safe online.

During the recent Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference in London, advocates said that technology has proven to be a mixed blessing for LGBT+ people in Asia, opening opportunities to connect but fanning hate speech, death threats and attacks.

“We get death threats and online harassment all the time, which affects … the mental health of our members,” said Rhadem Morados, a gay, Muslim filmmaker from Mindanao in the Philippines.

“But we should also embrace the idea that there are more advantages than disadvantages,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The ‘LGBT Philippine Community’ Facebook page, for example, has more than 10,000 followers, while Morados said he often gets messages from fellow LGBT+ Muslims on Instagram and Twitter seeking advice.

The increasing availability and affordability of smartphones and emergence of digital savvy has allowed many LGBT+ people to connect with others across the region, activists said.

“Internet is really important now,” said TusharKantiBaidya, an LGBT+ activist based in Bangladesh.

“(People) from very rural areas, they can also have (a smartphone) and they can get connected to each other… they can share their crisis.”

Gay sex remains illegal in Bangladesh and LGBT+ people often face discrimination and violence in the conservative, Muslim-majority country.

In 2016, two prominent campaigners in Bangladesh were murdered in an attack claimed by al Qaeda.

One of them, XulhazMannan, was the editor of the country’s first LGBT+ magazine, available in print and online.

Given the risks, technology companies should do more to crack down on hate speech and improve security for vulnerable people, campaigners said. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)