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Twitter quietly scraps failed transphobia policy for all the wrong reasons

Twitter quietly scraps failed transphobia policy for all the wrong reasons

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
TL;DR: Twitter owner Elon Musk has scrapped the long-failed policy banning transphobia, deadnaming and misgendering on the platform. In a week where verified users lost their 'blue ticks', the platform is veering dangerously towards giving free reign to hate.

When it was first announced, it caused a media storm.

Twitter was banning deadnaming and misgendering - for a platform that played host to so much hate, it was widely discussed. But this week, that policy was quietly dropped by Elon Musk's team.

Arguably, the policy was never a success. Transphobic hate was still a problem on the platform when Musk took over years after its launch.

At that time, 12% of online conversations about trans lives contained abuse. Since Musk has taken over, a raft of reports have shown how that hate has substantially increased.

Amid the policy being dropped, 'legacy' verified users losing their blue ticks and users near-unanimously rejecting paying for the app, what's next for queer Twitter and the social media platform many LGBTQIA+ folk found their people on?

Twitter drops ban on misgendering and deadnaming transgender people

Twitter quietly dropped its ban on misgendering and deadnaming this week by altering its hateful conduct policy to remove the phrase. It made no announcement and replied to all media requests about the change with the now customary poop emoji - NBC

The provision was first added in 2018:

"We prohibit targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”

The change was first noticed by US LGBTQIA+ group GLAAD. In a statement issued Tuesday, GLAAD called the move "the latest example of just how unsafe the company is for users and advertisers alike" - Mashable

This change is not surprising. Musk has a history of repeating anti-trans dog whistles and sharing content that features prejudice against LGBTQIA+ people - QueerAF

The move is all part of Musk's free speech absolutionism, which believes no speech should be limited, even if it's hateful. It clearly shows where Musk’s Twitter stands on transphobia, and it's not on the side of transgender people - Jezebel

As a trans person, should I quit Elon Musk’s Twitter?
The billionaire regularly shares transphobic content and plans to rip up what little moderation there is

Blue ticks disappear, celebs deny paying for them

It's not the only change the platform made this week. 'Legacy' verified users, from journalists to celebrities, lost their 'blue check mark' on Thursday - The Guardian

That means anyone you see with a blue checkmark now pays for one.

If that gives you the ick, you're not alone. Most users on the platform denounced the move and called on people not to pay for the new ‘Twitter Blue’ service.

Three celebrities that called out the move before it happened - LeBron James, Stephen King and William Shatner - kept their checkmarks but denied that they were paying for the privilege. It was later revealed that Musk was 'paying for them' himself - The Verge

Analysis: Musk's free speech playground promotes hate above freedom

Even household names like Stephen King are refusing to pay for Twitter Blue. The platform clearly has a significant image and credibility issue.

Trolling and hate have become uncontrollable on the platform. Twitter insiders have admitted the company is no longer able to even protect users from material featuring state-coordinated disinformation or child sexual exploitation under Musk - BBC

Meanwhile, his free speech 'absolutionism' is at best naive and at worst dangerous.

Take the famous words of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then mayor of Istanbul: "Democracy is like a tram. You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off." When Erdogan got off the tram as president, he brought in laws that prevented free speech and rolled back human rights - Turkey Institute

The world stands at a dangerous precipice where hate speech runs unchecked and unregulated online. Meanwhile, generative AI is set to change the way we all communicate without safeguards.

The way we communicate online is changing fast. But we all have a say in how that looks and feels.

We can all play our part in modelling a world where conversations are calm, nuanced and balanced. Meanwhile, policymakers are going to have to catch up fast.

Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay queer disabled - A note from me:

Twitter was already a tough place for us to promote queer information that serves our community justice.

Overnight, Musk's removal of the deadnaming policy has cemented what we long predicted - a platform where hate is not only allowed but welcomed.

It used to be a platform where we could grow this newsletter.

Where we could expand our reach to tackle disinformation about LGBTQIA+ lives.

Where we could support QueerAF creatives.

It's not anymore.

QueerAF can adapt to this new reality and continue to thrive, but we need your help.

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