TORONTO -- A new initiative by the LGBTQ2S+ advocacy organization, GLAAD, plans to rate social media platforms based on how well they protect people from abuse.

The organization announced Friday that it will release an index with the ratings, along with recommendations for policy changes and product updates to better address misinformation, hate speech, privacy, and other issues that queer people uniquely face.

“Social media is a lifeline for LGBTQ people, but too often we face real harm that goes unchecked by the platforms,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “LGBTQ policies and product updates have long been low on priority lists, even as the tech industry is finally waking up to the issues that marginalized communities face on their platforms.”

Ellis added, “our Social Media Safety Index will hold social media platforms accountable and provide a roadmap for creating safer and more inclusive online spaces.”

While there is little research on the incidence and experience of online hate against LGBTQ2S+ individuals, a 2019 report by researchers at the London School of Economics and Politics in the U.K. found that online abuse can have a severe impact on victims.

“Online hate crimes can have various effects, including impacting upon a person’s emotional state and psychological wellbeing, causing or worsening mental illness, disruption of daily behaviours and routines, and causing financial/economic losses,” the report notes.

Experts suggest that queer people of colour, and transgender individuals in particular, experience a greater rate of online abuse compared to white cisgender people.

A 2019 report by the anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label and consumer intelligence company Brandwatch analyzed 10 million social media posts in the U.S. and U.K. over a period of three and a half years. The group says during that time they uncovered more than 1.5 million transphobic comments and posts.

“This report does not make for light reading as it uncovers the shocking and inhumane ways in which transgender people are targeted, harassed, and abused on digital platforms,” Ditch The Label CEO Liam Hackett notes.

With the creation of a social media safety index, GLAAD says it hopes to hold social media platforms accountable for years of unchecked abuse and provide a roadmap to improve the user experience for queer people.

The organization says it plans to launch the index in spring 2021.