From The Stonewall Inn Riots to Modern Day Hate Online

Over 50 years ago an event occurred that is recognized as a critical and arguably the most important event in the fight for LGBTQ+ equity. On that day, the Stonewall riots took place in New York’s Greenwich Village. These riots were the pivotal moment in the gay rights movement and came in response to a police raid that began at the famous LGBTQ+ bar the Stonewall Inn.

The fight that started on July 28, 1969 was a physical fight for equity. These riots served as a focusing and motivating point for the LGBTQ+ movement – that fight for civil rights and respect continues today. Unlike that day in 1969, the new arena for hate speech has moved from the streets of New York to online where individuals are bullied and harassed simply due to who they are.

A Troubling Trend Toward LGBTQ+ Online Hate

Recently, the LGBTQ+ media advocacy group GLAAD released its inaugural edition of the Social Media Safety Index.  In this report, GLAAD observed that online communities are not addressing “the prevalence and intensity of hate speech, and harassment stands … as the most significant problem in urgent need of improvement.”  In fact, online hate speech targeting the LGBTQ community is more prevalent than ever before.

The findings of the study as well as additional information recently unveiled were rather alarming.

  • LGBTQ youth were almost three times (42% vs. 15%) more likely to be bullied or harassed online than heterosexual students.
  • Sixty-four percent of LGBTQ social media users reported experiencing harassment and hate speech, a much higher rate than all other identity groups.

When this new information was uncovered it served as a stark reminder of why Two Hat was founded “We believe that everyone should be free to share online without fear of harassment or abuse. And every day we work to make that vision a reality.” remains as crucial as ever.

How Do We Protect Individuals from Hate Speech

How can we create a safe online community for LBTGQ+? First, to prevent hate speech and bullying in a digital community, requires holistic community management. This means understanding all layers of context, including cultural nuance, internet lingo, pop culture, global trends and more. Exceptional online communities will not grow and thrive if even a small percentage of hate speech, bullying, or violence exists within them. This ruins the experience for everyone. No one wants to be on the receiving end of bullying, nor do people want to see it happening to their peers and friends within the community.

Second, identify and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. Two Hat Language and Culture Specialists launched the Gender Expression & Trans Identity initiative. Under this initiative, our specialists now review pronouns and terminology used by the LGBTQ+ community, as well as slang that could be used as hate speech against members of the community, to better inform our Community Sift’s product (which monitors 19 topics including hate speech) capabilities.

Lastly, block hate speech when it’s identified. Two Hat processes over 100 billion human interactions per month, over a trillion per year, with tools that track subversions, evaluate context and identify the level of negative intent behind the content using a holistic AI expert system plus human expertise. Some community members can be highly creative in their attempts to try and subvert a filter, attacking LGBTQ+ community members. All of this serves as the needed support for community management so everyone can feel safe.

“We work with our partners to help them hear the hate as it happens – and stop it before it harms. This is highly reactive, real-time prevention – focused on keeping communities healthy and safe.” said Steve Parkis, CEO, Two Hat Security.

The journey for equity that accelerated at the Stonewall Inn continues today and we must stand up for those who are the victims of hate speech in person and online. Two Hats’ mission and focus will continue to be to keep all communities safe online and we thank you for your continued commitment that helps us achieve this goal, everyday.

How #ICANHELP is Empowering the Next Generation of Digital Citizens

Two Hat believes that everyone should be free to share online without fear of harassment or abuse. We also believe that making this vision a reality is a shared responsibility.

That’s why we have allied ourselves with diverse organizations including non-profits, government agencies, private companies, and industry alliances to share best practices, produce online safety resources, and spread the word of proactive, purposeful content moderation. One of those organizations is the California-based non-profit #ICANHELP.

We recently sat down with Matt Soeth, co-founder and executive director of #ICANHELP to discuss the organization’s upcoming initiatives with the NY Yankees, his thoughts on social media legislation, and #Digital4Good, their annual event celebrating student achievements.


Carlos Figueiredo: Tell us about your organization, #ICANHELP.

Matt Soeth: #ICANHELP educates and empowers students to use social media positively.

We train students how to be digital first responders. When they see something online we want them to know how to report content (when necessary), how to respond to negative content, and in the words of students, how to respond to all the “drama.”

At the same time, we work with students to build positive social media campaigns. We train educators and admin best practices around modeling and guiding students in developing their digital identity.

CF: What initiatives are you working on right now?

MS: We are excited to announce our partnership with the NY Yankees as part of their Bronx Education All Star Day. About 9000 students and educators were at the game on May 29 being recognized for academic achievement, civic engagement, and leadership. We will be working with Bronx schools in the fall with our curriculum and resources to help students develop social projects for the 2019-2020 school year.

We have two new online courses for teachers and administrators we are excited to share. Our teacher course walks educators through building up their social media presence, managing student social media teams, and the best way to model and guide students in creating and managing content. Our admin course will help anyone looking for policy examples and guidance on how to respond and investigate social media incidents. We walk everyone through how to create an incident response plan related to a social media incident as well as how to work with law enforcement, social media companies, and gaming companies to get content removed that violates a platform’s terms of service.

We are excited to announce a collaboration project with the Well Being Trust, the foundation for Providence/St. Joseph Health, to create mental health and wellness curriculum around digital wellbeing. So much of what we see in digital wellbeing currently is focused heavily on devices and we are looking to develop some tools for young people and educators to help them talk about stress, anxiety, and online negativity.

CF: How can people get involved?

MS: Check out our website. You can always contact us through our site. We are very active on social media, @icanhelp on Twitter, @icanhelpofficial on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. We are sharing content all the time, so if schools are looking for ideas, that’s the place to connect with us.

That being said – share! So much of what we do is word of mouth and we have students all over doing some amazing work. We’d love for more people to know those stories.

If you are an educator or parent and care about this topic, please reach out and share our resources, invite us to your community or school, help us grow the conversation and keep it going.

CF: What is your take on the social media legislation being introduced around the world – Online Harms and Duty of Care in the UK, Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material in Australia, the Christchurch Call?

MS: All of these actions are leading to new policy and regulation to hold companies accountable for the content on their site. The challenge will come when trying to enforce these laws and regulations as that part is still unclear. The intent behind these actions is clear, making the internet a better and safer place for users, particularly youth.

The one challenge I do have with all of this is the emphasis on government regulation and corporate responsibility. Whenever there is a major social incident – offline, that then goes viral and plays out online – we as users react. In this case, with a landslide of recent incidents, we got the white paper, identifying and removing terrorist content, and so on. It solves the problem now, but I often wonder if gets to the systemic underlying issue causing all of these problems. For example, there is so much talk about cyberbullying, but kids are still more likely to be bullied in person than online. Responding to cyberbullying is good, and needs to happen, but regulating companies is not enough. If the internet is going to be a better place, it needs to be a collective effort: users, nonprofits, content experts, education institutions, companies, you name it. It takes all of us.

CF: Can you give us a sneak peek at #Digital4Good 2019?

MS: We are really excited about #Digital4Good 2019. It’s being held at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, CA. We have our winners selected and will be sharing more about them soon. It’s a diverse group of students from all over the US covering a range of topics and projects around bullying, race, homelessness, robotics, leadership development, and cancer research.

These students will be sharing their stories live on September 16, 2019. We’ve invited a few schools to attend, though seating is limited. You can tune into the live stream and see the event as it happens (or watch again later). To get notified about the live stream, fill out the form on the page. We will tell you when the event is happening and share out the schedule of student speakers.

CF: Thanks for sitting down with us, Matt!

MS: My pleasure, Carlos!


Baking Goodies and Wearing Pink to Support Anti-Bullying

Photo from the original Pink Shirt Day idea from some Nova Scotia high school students

Here in Canada, we have a decade-long annual tradition of wearing pink shirts as a sign of solidarity against bullying. The tradition was started by two teenagers in Nova Scotia named Travis Price and David Sheppard, who heard that a younger student was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school.

Bullying isn’t just an issue in Canada (a nation mistakingly known as an overly-polite and apologetic country.) Young people around the world face issues with overly-aggressive bullies attacking their self-esteem. There are numerous reports of young people harming themselves when they don’t know how to cope with the endless bombardment from bullies. Teachers and parents don’t always know how to deal with the situation, offering ‘quick fixes’ like forcing the two participants (bully and the bullied) to just ‘hug it out’.

Spoiler alert: the issue of bullying isn’t exclusive to young people, and it’s not exclusive to schools, either. Bullying is a major problem at home, in the office, and across the internet (hence why we built Community Sift.) Teaching young people how to become more resilient is only becoming more important.

The team that bakes together stays together!

Today, our team at Two Hat Security hosted a bake sale to raise funds to support anti-bullying initiatives across Canada. We raised over $400 at our little sale, and our team is chipping in to bring the total to a nice big $1,000.


All the proceeds will be donated to the CKNW Orphans’ Fund, who disperse the funds to different child and youth programs. We’re excited about this, as these programs support healthy self-esteem for children and their peers. They teach empathy, compassion, and kindness – three things all close to any loving parent’s heart.

Every bake sale worth its weight in sugar needs to carry vegan and gluten-free options, of course!


Check out the interview courtesy of the Capital News:

VIDEO: Spread some kindness, enjoy a sweet treat

The theme of this year’s Pink Shirt Day is the “Pink Shirt Promise”, encouraging others to share kindness with others. We used up some precious whiteboard space to encourage each other in the office:

And our UX aficionado Jesse even whipped up this fun Pink Shirt Day virtual t-shirt maker to help spread the word. Fun!

Here’s to another successful Pink Shirt Day. In the meantime, we’re going to get back to work, since we spend all year working to end bullying online! There’s still so much to do, after all. Perhaps we need to consider wearing pink shirts as a new team uniform every day… ?

A Parade of Kindness in Pink Shirts

Bullying is a huge issue for kids around the world. All around the globe, you’ll read stories like this one or this one or this one, all of which are stories of children or teens who have been bullied to the point of feeling so helpless they’ve committed suicide. When we say “huge issue”, it’s not an understatement.

Pink Shirt Day is an annual event in Canada, inspired by a group of kids who were sticking up for a friend who was being harassed because of their pink shirt. Over time, pink shirts became a cross-Canada symbol for a movement, with charities, businesses, and news media outlets showing their support for initiatives that take a stand against bullying every February. We hope this movement can spread further, into other countries around the world.

Bullying is an issue that’s close to our hearts at Community Sift. Every member of the team has been bullied at some point in their lives, as a child, a teen, or even as an adult. Now we are working together as a team to create software to sift out bullies and encourage positive online behavior instead.

Today we hosted a little experiment, by surprising a few businesses with some “drive-by positivity”. We all put on our pink shirts and grabbed stacks of pink Post-It notes to blitz each office with kind and positive messages, ‘flash mob’ style. It would have been easier to just buy some pink shirts and sit in the office working away, but we wanted to encourage others to join in the cause. We also wanted to see if we could make kindness spread like a positive virus. As it turns out, we could!

While we faced a few hiccups (one conference call and one team in the middle of a hotfix), most of the businesses were kind enough to let us invade their space with positivity. We kept it short and sweet, leaving as many pink Post-It notes with positive messages as we could at each office.

Several of the offices were also taking part in Pink Shirt Day, and they stopped to take photos with us. One local business (Hyper Hippo Games) even handed out prizes to the team members with the best Pink Shirt Day outfits.

We were greeted by honking horns and big smiles from most of the people we walked past on the street, as we were making a scene with our pink balloons, shirts, and happy Post-It notes.

After our little parade was over, we continued receiving posts and messages and photos from all the various people we interacted with throughout the afternoon. Then a funny thing happened – the team kept the positivity going, even without any sort of prompt! We started up a #kudos channel in our internal Slack, with people saying positive and kind things about each other, thanking others for being awesome. Our little Pink Shirt Day parade was a team event that wouldn’t have been as good without everyone’s participation.

We love the dreams of social apps like Brighten, who are on a mission to spread positive messages, or Facebook’s new “Reactions” button, which gives more expressivity to an otherwise somewhat lifeless “like” button. Rewarding users for spreading kindness is a great way to move away from bullying behavior towards more positive ones. To quote Lady Gaga, “Tolerance and acceptance and love is something that feeds every community.”

Happy Pink Shirt Day to all of our friends around the world. We’re happy to be helping so many great businesses to sift out bullies from their online communities.

As our team member Mila would say, “Let’s start with smile!”


Originally published on Medium