Twitter has once again quietly updated a significant policy without explanation. The company appears to have changed its hateful conduct policy to remove a section that protected transgender people from misgendering and death names, in a move discovered by GLAAD.
Twitter had originally banned targeted death names and misgendering in 2018. “We prohibit targeting others with repeated gossip, tropes, or other content intended to denigrate or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category,” the policy states. “This includes the targeted misgendering or death-naming of trans people.”[ads1];
The last sentence has now been removed. Twitter’s policy page indicates that it was last updated in “April 2023”. But, as GLAAD points out, a look through the Wayback Machine suggests the change was made on April 8.
This decision to roll back LGBTQ safety puts Twitter even further out of step with TikTok, Pinterest and Meta, all of which maintain similar policies to protect their transgender users at a time when anti-transgender rhetoric online leads to discrimination and violence in the real world.
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) 18 April 2023
GLAAD and others have condemned the move. “Twitter’s decision to surreptitiously roll back its longstanding policy is the latest example of how unsafe the company is for users and advertisers alike,” GLADD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “While the rules were sparsely enforced, this gives the green light for further targeting of trans users,” it wrote Alejandra Caraballoclinical instructor at Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic, who also flagged the change.
Twitter has so far not publicly commented on the rule change or provided an explanation. Elon Musk disbanded the company’s communications team.
However, Musk has previously signaled that he wanted to roll back the rules. One of his first moves as CEO was to reinstate a number of high-profile users who had been banned under the previous policy. At about the same time, Bloomberg reported that Musk — who has repeatedly mocked people who specify their pronouns — had asked employees to “review” that section of the company’s hateful conduct rules.