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A Study Analyzed 10 Million Online Posts Over 3.5 Years. It Found a Torrent of Transphobic Abuse

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A new report analyzing 10 million social media and online posts in the U.S. and U.K. over three and a half years found 1.5 million transphobic posts, highlighting the level of cyber-abuse targeting transgender people.

Anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label and consumer intelligence company Brandwatch partnered on the study, which found that in the U.S., race was the leading driver of transphobic online comments. In the U.K., politically-driven abuse was the most prominent topic in conversations including transphobic comments. Other themes found within transphobic comments included parenting, religion, gender, sports and healthcare. “Education is key to stem the stream of transphobic abuse online, especially when we consider the breakdown of themes surrounding transphobic abuse,” said Liam Hackett, CEO and founder of Ditch the Label. “There needs to be greater governance of online communities, and a tougher stance and zero tolerance approach towards transphobia online.” The study analyzed platforms including social media services like Twitter and Instagram, as well as YouTube, forums and news websites.

“Unfortunately these findings don’t surprise me. For someone who is in the public eye, I experience abuse on a daily basis,” British transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf said in a statement, adding that she had seen most of the transphobic comments included in the report on her own social media timeline, ranging from memes to threats to her safety. “I was interested to see the relationship between transphobia and racism and do feel that racist people see transphobia as a tool to legitimize their racism. I’ve had transphobic comments on photos of me mixed in with Nazi speech on a number of times.”

Across the platforms surveyed, high percentages of transphobic comments appeared on news sites and web forums. The study also noted a large volume of abusive commentary on YouTube. The study furthermore looked at transphobic comments in the context of world events, noting a spike in abusive comments in the U.S. before and after President Trump proposed a ban on transgender people serving in the military in July of 2017. However, the study also noted that spikes in transphobic conversation in the U.K. “was simply due to an anti-trans joke being shared lots of times.”

“As a trans woman of color, being subjected to these comments is extremely difficult to navigate,” said Bergdorf. “You have to be dead inside to not let it bother you and it’s made even harder when you experience it all the time and the people perpetrating it don’t seem to be sanctioned for their behavior.”

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