Sick thugs go online to swap videos of violent anti-LGBT attacks
Videos gleefully featuring violent attacks against LGBT people are racking up millions of views on poorly-moderated video sites, as bigots turn to the internet.
A pioneering report released this week by human rights group Witness looked at the trend of people filming anti-LGBT assaults and uploading them to social media sites.
The ‘Capturing Hate’ report looked at four sites where the violent videos were most often uploaded – World Star Hip Hop, Fly Height, and Live Leak and YouTube – finding 329 videos featuring violent anti-LGBT attacks.
The videos have racked up a combined total of 89,233,760 views, 230,262 comments and 601,300 shares. Many were shared under titles such as “tranny fight”, emulating Jerry Springer Show segments that often bore the caption.
The report notes: “The search terms we used to source the greatest volume of video links almost exclusively captured incidents from urban environments involving people of color.
“The videos most engaged with were found on, or originated from, ‘shock’ entertainment sites.”
In one incident, a transwoman is beaten into a seizure inside a Maryland McDonald’s.
In another, two transwomen are assaulted, one stripped naked, as they ride an Atlanta MARTA train.
A third incident sees a gay man in drag is beaten in a Washington, D.C. pizzeria as bystanders cheer on the assailants.
Witness notes: “Videos of these encounters are shocking not only in their quantity, but in their popularity among viewers, and the callousness of their responses.
“Homophobic, transphobic and racist remarks dominate the comments and videos posted over a decade ago are still being engaged with.”
Though some of the clips were confined to poorly-moderated fringe video platforms, 64% of recorded incidents were available on YouTube, despite the site’s policies that explicitly prohibit content that incites hatred or promotes violence against individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The videos were often accompanied by a stream of homophobic and transphobic messages from commenters praising the attacks.
Witness added: “These eyewitness videos document mistreatment of transgender and gender nonconforming people ranging from disrespect to murder. They show acts of violence against these communities that are not only tolerated, but encouraged and glorified.
“The viewer engagement with these eyewitness videos reveal deeply held biases that intersect race, sex, class and gender identity.
“The attitudes expressed by viewers overwhelmingly blame gender nonconforming people for the violence and hatred perpetrated against them and expose a visceral rejection of people transgressing accepted notions of gender expression.
“The ongoing engagement with these videos and the hostility expressed by viewers are compounding acts of discrimination that traumatize not only individual victims, but have broader consequences for gender nonconforming communities as a whole.
“They are a persistent reminder of the threat to the physical and emotional safety of all people who identify beyond the gender binary.
“These eyewitness videos and their corresponding viewer engagement have real and sustained impact.
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“A survivor’s loss of privacy and control over their public image in the aftermath often compounds injury with the loss of employment, housing, and personal relationships.
“The circulation and replaying of these traumatic events not only denies survivors a safe space to heal, but has a chilling effect on all gender nonconforming people.
“The majority of the videos found are on YouTube, the only platform we studied that specifically mentions protection from hate speech that encourages or incites violence based on race, sexual orientation and gender identity; these videos clearly violate those policies.
“That they continue to be viewed and engaged with on YouTube despite those policies underscores the challenges of enforcing compliance and creating environments that encourage civil and non-discriminatory discourse.
“That these videos were captured, shared and engaged with as entertainment indicates a real and imminent threat to transgender and gender nonconforming people.
“This report serves as a reminder that there is an urgent and ongoing need to document the abuse suffered by these communities so that laws and policies are instituted to protect them.
“Finally, we think that these videos, and the viewer engagement data associated with them, show yet another way eyewitness video can be used for advocacy.
“Even though this content was intended to do harm, if used ethically, it documents discrimination and abuse in a way no other reports on transphobic violence has done to date. The study of eyewitness videos, coupled with an analysis of how viewers engage with them, is a powerful way to expose human rights abuses.”