Twitter secretly changed its hateful-conduct policy to remove protections for transgender users, opening them up to even more online abuse.
The social media network implemented a rule in 2018 prohibiting users from referring to trans people by the wrong gender or by their dead name, meaning the name they were given prior to transitioning. Under the policy, misgendering or deadnaming trans people was considered “targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.”
That rule was in place until April 7, according to the internet archive the Wayback Machine. But by the next day, the second sentence had been removed from Twitter’s policies. As civil rights lawyer Alejandra Caraballo pointed out, this opens the door to even more abuse toward trans people, who are already subjected to a lot of hatred both on- and offline.
Twitter did not announce the change, meaning that people are only just learning about it 10 days after the fact. GLAAD slammed the switch as “the latest example of just how unsafe the company is for users and advertisers alike.”
“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 president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement, noting that civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, have categorized misgendering and deadnaming people as a form of hate speech.
Ellis also pointed out that TikTok, Pinterest, and Meta have trans protection policies, making Twitter an outlier.
Hate speech has risen dramatically on Twitter since Elon Musk took over in October, although he insists otherwise. A report released in December by Media Matters and GLAAD analyzed tweets from nine prominent right-wing figures and accounts and found that in the first month under Musk’s leadership, there was a 1,200 percent increase in retweets of posts that use the word “groomer,” a homophobic slur.
The social media research group National Contagion Research Institute found that in the 12 hours after Musk bought Twitter, use of the n-word increased almost 500 percent. Musk has let Nazis back on Twitter, given blue verification check marks to the Taliban, and shared transphobic memes and Nazi photos himself.