Twitter appears to have quietly rolled back a portion of its hateful conduct policy that included specific protections for transgender people.
The policy previously stated that Twitter prohibits “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.” But the second line was removed earlier this month, according to archived versions of the page from the WayBack Machine.
Twitter also removed a line from the policy detailing certain groups of people often subject to disproportionate abuse online, including “women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual individuals, and marginalized and historically underrepresented communities.”
The platform first introduced its policy prohibiting misgendering and deadnaming (referring to a person’s pre-transition name) of transgender people in 2018 as part of a broader overhaul of its hateful conduct policy.
The change to the hateful conduct policy is one of a number of updates Twitter has made to its safety and content moderation practices since Elon Musk took over the company last fall. Twitter has also restored the accounts of users who had previously been banned for violating its rules, stopped enforcing its Covid-19 misinformation policy, allowed users to purchase blue verification checkmarks and applied controversial new labels to the accounts of several news organizations.
LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD called out the hateful conduct policy change in a Tuesday 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,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said. “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.”
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment about the change, although the platform did announce earlier this week some other updates to how it enforces its hateful conduct policy. The platform said it plans to start applying labels to some tweets that violate its hateful conduct policy and reduce their visibility, a similar practice to the one used under the company’s previous leadership, under which it either reduced the visibility of or removed violative tweets.
“Restricting the reach of Tweets helps reduce binary ‘leave up versus take down’ content moderation decisions and supports our freedom of speech vs freedom of reach approach,” the company said in a tweet. Twitter also said it will not place ads next to content that has been labeled as violative.
Musk has been in the process of trying to encourage advertisers to return to the platform, after many paused their spending over concerns about Musk’s policy changes, increased hate speech on the platform and massive cuts to the company’s workforce, threatening the company’s core business.
The billionaire tried to assuage advertisers about Twitter’s approach to hateful conduct at a marketing conference Tuesday, saying, “If somebody has something hateful to say, it doesn’t mean you should give them a megaphone,” according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
Musk has faced a number of criticisms from some in the transgender community, most notably from his transgender daughter Vivian Jenna Wilson. Last year, she petitioned a court in California to change her last name to that of of her mother, Justine Wilson, Musk’s ex-wife and mother of five of his seven children, because she no longer wanted to be related to her father “in any way, shape or form.”
Musk has also had several tweets where he mocked the idea of use of people choosing the pronouns they want to apply to them. He had one tweet in December 2020, which he later deleted, that said “when you put he/him in your bio” alongside a drawing of an 18th century soldier rubbing blood on his face in front of a pile of dead bodies and wearing a cap that read “I love to oppress.”
And this past December, a vocal critic of many Covid restrictions and protocols, Musk tweeted, “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.”
But in other tweets, Musk has insisted he had no problems with transgender people, saying that his problem is with “all these pronouns” which he called an “esthetic nightmare.” He also pointed out that his auto company Tesla (TSLA) has repeatedly scored a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign as being one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.”
— CNN’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report