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It’s no secret that Twitter has been filled with transphobic users and rhetoric for years, and yet the social media platform has refused to acknowledge the problem.
That’s why it was a bit of an eye-roll on Thursday, when Twitter published a half-hearted apology encouraging users to report transphobic abuse on the site. In response, trans users and their allies are pointing out all the terrible things Twitter does to trans people.
Nearly two weeks after it was reported by the New York Times that the Trump administration is proposing to define gender as one’s assigned sex at birth, Twitter’s official LGBTQ group TwitterOpen condemned this proposal. In a statement on Twitter, TwitterOpen stressed that the site “recognizes that trans people exist and welcomes them to the flock.” It also went on to say that trans peoples’ experiences and identities “are valid and vital to our world,” and that Twitter “stands with trans people, not because we are radical, but because we are human.”
First off, Twitter spoke out a little too late. But Twitter is also ignoring the fact that being trans is a pretty radical political existence. The right-wing actively targets trans people by attacking trans children, refusing service to trans people, and attempting to strip away basic rights like using the bathroom. Like it or not, simply being trans has become a politicized existence, which means standing for trans people is just as much of one.
While ideally, trans peoples’ existence shouldn’t be politicized, Twitter is trying to simultaneously come out for trans people while distancing itself from the political circumstances trans people experiences, and it can’t have it both ways. Condemning discrimination is not neutral.
But that’s not all. TwitterOpen didn’t even acknowledge that transphobia is an inherent problem on its platform. Instead of promising real change, TwitterOpen simply invited trans people and their allies to report abuse “if you have experienced” it.
The United States is debating policies that may put our transgender employees, family, and friends in dangerous positions.— TwitterOpen (@TwitterOpen) November 1, 2018
Twitter recognizes that trans people exist and welcomes them to the flock. Trans people have existed as long as all humans have existed. Their experiences and identities are valid and vital to our world.— TwitterOpen (@TwitterOpen) November 1, 2018
To require that trans people maintain the same rights and protections as all others is obvious and necessary.— TwitterOpen (@TwitterOpen) November 1, 2018
Twitter stands with trans people, not because we are radical, but because we are human.
If you have experienced or seen the harassment of trans people on our platform, we apologize deeply.— TwitterOpen (@TwitterOpen) November 1, 2018
We are constantly improving our safety tools and your reports are our greatest tool in that process.
Please report harassment here:https://t.co/nzDhVGJ7po
“If you have experienced or seen the harassment of trans people on our platform, we apologize deeply,” the statement reads. “We are constantly improving our safety tools and your reports are our greatest tool in that process.”
It’s an apology that reads more like something a waiter would tell you when your meal is 30 minutes late, not a sincere promise to do better over an ongoing and well-documented problem with sexual harassment on social media. From the start, trans people and their allies were far from happy.
[Jim Halpert stare into the camera] https://t.co/kGiRquYDYn— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) November 1, 2018
Are you fucking shitting me https://t.co/mTfbFYefAN— Missing Dracula Stein (@MagsVisaggs) November 2, 2018
some textbook token gesturing right here, not to mention gaslighting. (“if”? that’s a joke, right?)— jessica "shitpost" lachenal (@jeslach) November 1, 2018
look you can keep tweeting and saying you’ll do better until you’re blue in the face but until policies and practices actually change, the site stays a hostile place.
My pals, my buddies, friendos of all kinds, This is a bald faced lie. I've been skirting around the edges of the trans community for more than a year now and the only thing Twitter's improved is their ability to be used as a weapon against that community.— Tiger the Lion (@TigretheLion) November 1, 2018
They support bigotry.
i know damn well you won't read, much less respond, to any of what's being said to you in response to this disingenuous nonsense, but I'm going to pretend like you do care:— kiva, the curse of millhaven (@persenche) November 2, 2018
you ban trans people for using the entirely value-neutral taxonomic term 't3rf'. you are not allies.
every trans person on the platform has experienced harassment— bootsy (@NO_BOOT_DEVICE) November 1, 2018
until twitter works to better the fact that people, including verifieds abuse trans people and get away with it, the site WILL be viewed as a place for nazi apologists and transphobes, not a safe place for trans ppl
Instead of improving the site by actively culling transphobic users, Twitter is putting the onus on trans people and trans allies to police the site and report harassment. Which is lazy and doesn’t curb the initial problem.
Sorry our platform is full of bigots! Want to moderate it for us, for free? https://t.co/eHvqUbKUUi— dungeon mammal (@jlwn) November 1, 2018
“We apologize deeply...— Kdin Jenzen (@KdinJenzen) November 2, 2018
But also we won’t do anything about it and will continue to let people harass you all and threaten your safety.”
Gettin’ real tired of this kind of lip service from every company and -everyone-. https://t.co/VTXf12REuy
This is like a subway apologizing on the off chanc that anyone has ever witnessed someone be extremely drunk.— (((Thing Sayer))) (@sayer_of_stuff) November 1, 2018
No, forget that. This is like Starbucks asking people to report any incidents of coffee.
Other Twitter users pointed out the site’s terrible report feature. More often than not, Twitter outright bans trans people and their allies who strongly criticize TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) instead of protecting its trans users. Meanwhile, transphobes get a free pass for their endless dog whistles against trans people.
Twitter has a lot of work to do, and it doesn’t want to admit it.
Twitter dealing with reports of transphobia pic.twitter.com/ohtVCrb1AA— Neil Scully (@neilscully) November 2, 2018
“Twitter stands with trans people” but it’s transphobes gallivanting around this site and trans people getting their accounts suspended for pushing back against TERFs (and also being mass reported by those accounts) https://t.co/N2qYBF0zz4— zoé samudzi (@ztsamudzi) November 2, 2018
(Reporting transphobes almost never works, but it’s very likely to get banned for calling someone a TERF, which is not even a slur.)— Kati (@KatiKnitt) November 1, 2018
This happens pretty much every day and most reported tweets are ignored. Meanwhile, harassment reports are weaponised by transphobes against trans people who speak out about their experiences.— Ruth Pearce (@NotRightRuth) November 2, 2018
your reporting tools are currently often weaponized AS harassment against trans people and their loved ones who defend themselves against hateful ideology— Cass Krs (@cass_krs) November 1, 2018
That's a load of crap. You allow TERFs to dox and harass trans women, and when people report the TERFs, you put the VICTIMS in "Twitter jail."— erin not jacob wohl's mom nanasi (@ErinNanasi) November 2, 2018
What is twitter doing to improve this? Trans people have been reporting harassment for years, and end up getting bans themselves. Look inwardly first before you put it back on users to report. pic.twitter.com/v52pAlsmE6— Shane I (@twistingaether) November 1, 2018
Unfortunately, reporting intense harrassment, even death threats, rarely results in any action, while trans people are repeatedly suspended/banned for even the most mild criticism of transphobes.— Jesse Cian Fawcett (@nAbleMedia) November 2, 2018
You don't actually DO anything when it's reported though, do you? (no. The answer is very much no, you don't.)— Jay Hulme (@JayHulmePoet) November 1, 2018
Oh my god twitter, fuck you. You routinely ban trans people for calling out out TERF abusers. Literally any trans-related post is FLOODED WITH HATE. Too little, too late. https://t.co/C5heKwPqRT— v. frood (@numinousred) November 2, 2018
A "sincere" apology after a pattern of bad behavior, with no attempt to change the bad behavior, is one of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship, y'know.— Em Grace (@jumbledandjivey) November 2, 2018
Others just want the TERFs and Nazis off the site, which Twitter has refused to do for years now.
@Glinner has over 600,000 followers and constantly sends people to harass trans people, yet he’s not banned— Summer (@HeepDouse) November 1, 2018
Ban the TERFs and nazis you dipshits— dungeon mammal (@jlwn) November 1, 2018
Ban nazis.— Joe Is Over 3K Words In And Still Has No Plan (@Jeroic9) November 2, 2018
So you're going to suspend Donald Trump, right?— it's scary Kat! (@VERWHO) November 2, 2018
How about you BAN HATE SPEECH.— Erinalope (Illford) (@Illford_baker) November 2, 2018
you have advanced algorithms and smart people and have no obligation to host such hateful contents that spreads bigotry and racism through validation of mild hate, turning more more extreme.
Intolerance of tolerance is tolerance.
This isn’t the first time Twitter users have universally condemned the social media platform publicly. Two weeks ago, Twitter received the roasting of a lifetime after its official account told users to “be sweet when you tweet.” Across the site, users were quick to point out that Twitter lets a cornucopia of bigots tweet things that are not so sweet by simply allowing them on the platform.
“So does this mean you’re going to get rid of the Nazis and TERFs then?” one Twitter user asked. Evidently, no.
So does this mean you're going to get rid of the Nazis and TERFs then? https://t.co/QQIZezQucq— Toads & Prototypes Mode 🔜 GDC #FixAB5🌹🔥 (@nyhcmaven84) October 17, 2018
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The Daily Dot reached out to Twitter for comment but has not received a response.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.