LGBTQ+ community in Ethiopia faces surge of online harassment and violence linked to TikTok
LGBTQ+ advocacy group House of Guramayle has documented instances where TikTok users have not only engaged in sharing personal information and photos but have also forcibly ‘outed’ Ethiopians, thereby exacerbating an already challenging environment.
Members of Ethiopia’s LGBTQ+ community are grappling with a disturbing rise in online harassment and physical attacks, with much of the blame directed at the social media platform TikTok. The platform has been criticized for failing to promptly remove posts that call for violence against homosexual and transgender individuals. Advocates from the LGBTQ+ support group, House of Guramayle, have reported instances where TikTok users are also outing Ethiopians by sharing personal information and photos, exacerbating the already challenging situation. Ethiopia has strict laws against homosexual acts, carrying penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
The Associated Press identified videos that incite violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which violate TikTok’s guidelines. TikTok’s response was to remove the content and ban the accounts involved. The concerning videos primarily appear in Amharic, Ethiopia’s main language, and their emergence could be linked to Uganda’s recent anti-LGBT law. This surge in abusive content has prompted some LGBTQ+ Ethiopians to flee the country due to increased feelings of insecurity.
Why does it matter?
Amid growing concern, LGBTQ+ advocates stress that social media platforms like TikTok inadequately protect users from hate speech and harassment, particularly those identifying as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming. The inadequacy of social media platforms, including TikTok, in effectively addressing hate speech targeting marginalized communities raises questions about their content moderation practices. Notably, Twitter has faced its own share of criticism regarding its recent handling of hateful conduct, as it removed certain safeguards for transgender individuals, thereby fueling broader concerns about the online safety and well-being of these vulnerable communities.