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Jenni Olson to Lead GLAAD's Social Media Safety Program

Jenni Olson

Jenni Olson, an award-winning filmmaker and an expert on media and technology, has been named social media safety program director at GLAAD, the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization announced Thursday.

Olson will be in charge of GLAAD’s work to develop safer spaces for LGBTQ+ people on social media platforms and apps as well as public education and watchdog efforts to hold social media companies accountable to the LGBTQ+ community.

“The current unregulated, unsafe landscape of social media presents real harms to LGBTQ people,” Olson said in a press release. “GLAAD is advocating for solutions in numerous realms: online hate and harassment, AI bias, polarizing algorithms, data privacy. We’re working every day to hold platforms accountable and to secure safe online spaces for LGBTQ people.”

Olson spearheaded the organization’s recently launched inaugural Social Media Safety Index report. Based on feedback from an advisory council of tech leaders, real-time testing of content policies, and an expansive literature review, the 50-page evaluation puts forth the first-ever baseline of LGBTQ+ user safety in tech and a set of recommendations for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube as well as the tech industry at large. The index was created with support from the Gill Foundation and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.

The report, available in full here, found that the entire social media sector is effectively unsafe for LGBTQ+ users. Hate speech and harassment are prevalent, along with misinformation, creating a threat to public health and safety.

The index and the social media safety program are the latest additions to the GLAAD Media Institute. The institute is home to GLAAD’s research and reports, including the organization’s pioneering reports on LGBTQ+ inclusion in television and film as well as its consulting work with Hollywood, the video game industry, publishing, journalism, and global brands to ensure fair, accurate, and culture-changing LGBTQ+ representation.  

Under Olson’s leadership, the social media safety program is spotlighting new and existing safety issues facing LGBTQ+ users. Next year’s index will issue grades to demonstrate which companies prioritize LGBTQ+ safety.

“The tech industry must realize its obligation to protect its LGBTQ users,” GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis said in the release. “We know these companies can make their products safer. With Jenni’s leadership and the power of so many top figures at the intersection of tech and LGBTQ advocacy on our advisory committee, GLAAD will continue to tirelessly advocate for these solutions.”

Olson was a cofounder of PlanetOut.com, the first major LGBTQ+ community website, created by a small team of tech pioneers in 1995. She has been co-director of Frameline’s San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, the oldest and largest queer film festival in the world, and worked as director of marketing at LGBTQ+ film distributor Wolfe Video.

She is also an acclaimed filmmaker, LGBTQ+ film historian, and archivist. Her films include the essay-style documentaries The Joy of Life (2005) and The Royal Road (2016). She has compiled films of LGBTQ+ movie images and trailers such as Homo Promo and Trailer Camp, has authored magazine articles and books, and has amassed a huge collection of LGBTQ+ film prints and memorabilia, acquired last year by the Harvard Film Archive. She has been a consulting producer and archival producer-researcher on dozens of projects, including HBO Max’s LGBTQ+ history series Equal and Netflix’s Disclosure, and co-director of the Bressan Project, devoted to restoring and re-releasing the films of pioneering gay filmmaker Arthur J. Bressan Jr.

Among her many honors, she was named in 2020 to the Out 100 list, compiled by Out, a sister publication of The Advocate, for her contributions to LGBTQ+ culture and community. Last month she received the Berlin Film Festival’s Special Teddy Award for achievement in queer cinema.

In addition to serving on the board of the Jewish Film Institute, Olson sits on numerous advisory boards, including the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry at the University of California, Los Angeles; the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Moving Image Preservation; and the Curve Foundation, devoted to LGBTQ+ women’s culture and history. She is also the proud proprietor of Butch.org.

Tags: Media, GLAAD

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