Twitter has quietly removed a line in its “Hateful Conduct” policy that protected transgender people from online abuse.
Twitter’s policy used to state, “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.”
On April 8th, that final line was removed.
Another line mentioning trans folks, as well as other marginalized groups, has also vanished from the policy, which once named “women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, [and] asexual individuals” as examples of “groups of people are disproportionately targeted with abuse online.” That paragraph has now been shortened, with the named groups removed.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD, blasted the change in a recent statement.
“Twitter’s decision to covertly roll back its longtime policy is the latest example of just how unsafe the company is for users and advertisers alike. This decision to roll back LGBTQ safety pulls Twitter even more out of step with TikTok, Pinterest, and Meta, which all maintain similar policies to protect their transgender users at a time when anti-transgender rhetoric online is leading to real world discrimination and violence.”
“The practice of targeted misgendering and deadnaming has been identified by the ADL and other civil society groups as a form of hate speech. Social media companies committed to maintaining safe environments for LGBTQ people should be working to improve hate speech policies, not deleting long-standing ones.”
GLAAD also mentioned a February 2023 poll of LGBTQ+ Twitter users that found 60% of respondents had experienced an increase in abusive and hateful speech on Twitter since Elon Musk took over the company.
Musk has a long history of spreading transphobic rhetoric, and trans people have long been worried about the effects his purchase of Twitter would have on them. Just last week, he reportedly followed a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ accounts, including Chaiya Raichik’s far-right Libs of TikTok. Musk then tweeted that doctors or parents who support gender-affirming care for kids “should go to prison for life.”
Musk wrote that “Any parent or doctor who sterilizes a child before they are a consenting adult” should be imprisoned, further perpetuating false narratives about gender-affirming care for youth, which does not cause sterility and is reversible.
Additionally, The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that posts linking LGBTQ+ people to “grooming” and pedophilia have increased by 119% under Musk. Meanwhile, ads from major companies like Disney, T-Mobile, Kindle, and the NBA have appeared next to anti-LGBTQ+ tweets.
According to the study, five high-profile anti-LGBTQ+ accounts—including Chaya Raichik’s Libs of TikTok, Jaimee Michell’s Gays Against Groomers, and those of right-wing pundit Christopher Rufo, YouTuber Tim Pool, and James Lindsay—are set to generate $6.4 million in ad revenue per year for Twitter.