NEW YORK ---The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization, today announced a new project to address homophobia in virtual communities and educate users on LGBT issues.
“As more and more people turn to virtual communities to connect with each other and for entertainment, we need to ensure these spaces are LGBT-inclusive and safe for our community – right now that’s not always the case,” said Rashad Robinson, Senior Director of Media Programs at GLAAD. “Our new project and work with leading tech companies aims to both educate users on the impact of homophobic remarks and put sustainable policies in place that make the experience fun and inclusive for everyone.”
As part of this project, GLAAD will focus on a range of virtual communities including networked PC games, social networks, online gaming and virtual worlds. The project will also address policies related to commenting features on blogs, Web sites and message boards.
GLAAD will work to ensure such communities remain committed to:
-- Providing safe spaces for LGBT people to connect
-- Enact the best policies to prevent anti-LGBT defamation
-- Educate users of these communities about the effects of homophobia.
GLAAD’s Director of Digital Media, Justin Cole, will head the project:
“In most cases, the policies devised by these companies were done so to stop defamation from happening – to protect LGBT people. For instance, by banning the use of the word ‘gay,’ the companies were preventing people from using it as a slur. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of this is the creation of a virtual closet, where LGBT people cannot live, game, or interact openly.
“Our aim here is to work with all the players – including companies, gamers, journalists, and community moderators – to develop sustainable policy solutions that address the rampant homophobia, provide safe spaces for LGBT people, and make the experience fun for all.”
GLAAD will also be convening a groundbreaking panel discussion in Silicon Valley on July 18, 2009, that will spotlight the issue of homophobia in virtual communities and include the perspectives of both gaming companies and LGBT gamers. Confirmed panelists include representatives from XBox Live, Electronic Arts, Inc., Linden Labs, the Electronic Software Association, and GayGamer.net. For more information on the panel event and to RSVP, please visit: www.glaad.org/digitalevent.
The project is the culmination of work already in progress:
-- Earlier this year, Cole traveled to the Microsoft corporate headquarters to meet with XBox Live and discuss their policies after GLAAD supporters noted that XBox Live suspends user accounts if they make reference to their sexual orientations or self-identify as LGBT in their profiles.
-- GLAAD contacted Electronic Arts, Inc. after a message board for players of “Star Wars: The Old Republic” locked message threads about LGBT issues. EA corrected the problem and posted an apology.
-- GLAAD has placed calls to action and reported Facebook groups and YouTube users that openly advocate for the harming and killing of LGBT people. In all cases, the user accounts were rightly suspended.
GLAAD began its Digital Media Program in June 2008, creating the foremost program dedicated to new media advocacy in the LGBT movement. The program includes monitoring online media for defamation and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive online coverage of the LGBT community. The highly trafficked glaadBLOG began as part of the program to increase visibility of LGBT issues, disseminate information and call supporters to action.
GLAAD selected Justin Cole to lead the program as its Director. Previously, Cole served as Deputy Director of Online Communications at the influential media watchdog group Media Matters for America.