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A TikTok Ban On LGBT Conversion Therapy Content Has Reignited Calls To Ban The Practice In The UK

A petition calling for the practice to be banned attracted over 200,000 signatures earlier this year (PA)

4 min read

TikTok has become the latest social media platform to ban content promoting so-called “gay conversion therapy”, reigniting calls for the government to ban the practice.

In a statement, TikTok UK announced it was updating its guidelines with the aim of “removing content that is hurtful to the LGBTQ+ community by removing hateful ideas, including content that promotes conversion therapy and the idea that no one is born LGBTQ+.”

Other content now banned on the social media platform, which has over 100 million active monthly users in Europe, includes those promoting white nationalist ideologies and conspiracy theories targeting Jewish and Muslim communities.

Conversion therapy refers to treatment or psychotherapy aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or suppressing their gender identity.

Harry Hitchens, co-founder of the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the move, but warned that “we’ve heard this promise before from other platforms without much result”.

He added: “Time and time again, pledges have been made in the public and private sector to limit the reach of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ organisations. We’d now like to see those pledges turn into action.”

Boris Johnson described the practice in June as “absolutely abhorrent” and pledged that he would “bring forward” plans to make it illegal in the UK once a study on its prevalence had been conducted.

TikTok’s latest move to remove such content from its platform has reignited cross-party calls for the government to speed up action on conversion therapy in the UK.

Dan Carden was among Labour MPs welcoming the move, he told PoliticsHome: “It’s welcome to see online platforms taking action to protect their users from dangerous and detrimental content involving gay conversion therapies and theories.

“Action from the government is well overdue. Indeed, it had been promised in recent years but sadly under Boris Johnson’s premiership we are seeing Ministers backtracking on these commitments.”

Meanwhile, Abena Oppong-Asare said: “TikTok have done the right thing by banning content promoting gay conversion therapy. This is an abhorrent practice.

“The Government must now act urgently to do the right thing to make sure this is banned in the UK.”

And the SNP's Alyn Smith said: "Gay conversion therapy across the globe causes extreme suffering for individuals. It is a fraudulent practice that severely damages people.

"By some estimates, around 70% of people who have gone through gay conversion therapy have had suicidal thoughts. Over 30% have attempted suicide, while over 40% have self-harmed. It is a vile assault on a person’s happiness, and it should be outlawed entirely."

The Scottish MP added that he hoped the move by TikTok "will come with a greater sense of urgency" to remove harmful content when it appears.

LGBT rights group Stonewall also said it was good that TikTok was "stepping up" on this issue.

"All forms of so-called ‘therapy’ that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity are unethical and have been condemned by major UK health organisations like the NHS, psychotherapy and counselling bodies," said Josh Bradlow, Policy Manager at Stonewall.

"Being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is not something that can or should be ‘cured’."

"The Government’s National LGBT survey found that 2% of LGBT people have undergone conversion therapy, and a further 5% have been offered it.

"If we want all LGBT people to be safe, then the Government must bring forward an effective ban on these harmful practices now."

Responding to a written question from Mr Carden on the issue last week, equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said the government was “considering both legislative and non-legislative options to end conversion therapy practices for good.”

“Officials have been reviewing the current legislative framework to see how harmful and unacceptable practices referred to as conversion therapy may already be captured by existing laws and offences.”

She added that the government was working “at pace” to end the practice and “will outline in due course how it intends to proceed with an effective and proportionate response”.

TikTok confirmed in a blog post on its website that content that speaks positively about gay conversion therapy or claims about it being effective will now be removed, as well as content that promotes misinformation about the LGBT community. 

Other content to be banned includes those which plays into antisemitic tropes, promotes conspiracy theories about high-profile Jewish individuals or families, and promotes misinformation about the Muslim community.

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