Musk says X misgendering policy does not apply outside Brazil

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Elon Musk blames Brazil for misgendering policy change that outraged far-right

American influencers are still free to do as they please.


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Mar 4, 2024

Last year, Elon Musk’s X revoked a policy that combatted content “misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” one of his many battles with the inherent “wokeness” of the site he purchased.

But over the weekend, the far-right mitakenly discerned the policy had been revived, sparking outrage.

“Apparently X might’ve reinstated their ‘misgendering’ rule so I gotta test it out…,” posted right-wing influencer Chaya Raichik. “If I get suspended you can find me at @libsoftiktok.”

However, as outrage grew, Musk tweeted that it was “due to a court judgment in Brazil” which is being appealed, and only applies “where required by local laws.”

Before Musk bought X in 2022, the site classified content that misgendered or deadnamed transgender people as harassment—thanks to a policy enacted in 2018—and removed said content. In 2023, the policy was revoked and X started labeling tweets with a warnings that say “this Tweet may violate Twitter’s rules against Hateful Conduct.”

The tweets, however, were not taken down—only labeled.

“Restricting the reach of Tweets, also known as visibility filtering, is one of our existing enforcement actions that allows us to move beyond the binary ‘leave up versus take down’ approach to content moderation,” X stated in an April 2023 blog post about “Freedom of Speech, Not Reach.”

At the time, X also updated its Hateful Conduct Policy, which says that X users “may not directly attack other people on the basis… sexual orientation, gender, gender identity.” The site’s Policy still stands.

However, its Abuse and Harassment policy was recently updated, which many right-wingers noticed.

Under a section called “Use of Prior Names and Pronouns,” the policy states “where required by local laws, we will reduce the visibility of posts that purposefully use different pronouns to address someone other than what that person uses for themselves, or that use a previous name that someone no longer goes by as part of their transition.”

“Given the complexity of determining whether such a violation has occurred,” the policy continues, “we must always hear from the target to determine if a violation has occurred.”

The “Use of Prior Names and Pronouns” section’s inclusion in X’s Abuse and Harassment policy caused quite the stir.

“X reinstates misgendering policy one year after Elon Musk took the policy away. A blatant VIOLATION of Free Speech,” right-wing journalist Matt Couch tweeted. “Forcing someone to lie in order to not hurt your feelings is WRONG.”

Tim Pool, a right-wing commenter, tweeted he’d be “terminating all ad spend commitments and verified accounts over X reinstating the misgendering policy.” Musk responded to Pool’s tweet and clarified why the policy returned.

But what was initially praised by LGBTQ advocates was brushed aside by the site’s owner.

“Turns out this was due to a court judgment in Brazil, which is being appealed,” Musk tweeted. “But should not apply outside of Brazil.”

The Washington Examiner reported that Musk’s tweet “likely” refers to an August 2023 Brazil Supreme Court decision that ruled using homophobic slurs against individuals is punishable by prison.

Numerous right-wing influencers, such as Raichik and Ian Miles Cheong, shared Musk’s clarifying tweet, expressing a sigh of relief.

Cheong lives in Malaysia, but comments frequently on American politics and affairs. Raichik’s account @LibsofTikTok shares photos and information about educators she accuses of grooming children, and has been accused of causing bomb threats against schools.

“X’s newly implemented woke misgendering policy is a result of a Brazilian court ruling, which prohibits misgendering or making fun of someone based on their gender identity,” Cheong tweeted alongside a screenshot of Musk’s tweet. “Elon Musk has clarified to say that the rule should NOT apply outside of Brazil.”

“Elon clarifies the misgendering and pronoun policy which caused confusion on X this week,” Raichik tweeted, quoting Musk’s tweet.

In an interview with Ars Technica, GLAAD senior director of social media safety Jenni Olson said, prior to Musk’s update, that she saw X’s updates to its Abuse and Harassment policy as “positive,” but still “a step back” from X’s previous policies before Musk took over.

But even that short gain didn’t last.

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*First Published: Mar 4, 2024, 1:46 pm CST