Are Transphobes Gaming Twitter’s Moderation Algorithm?
Today’s suspension fiasco wasn’t the first time this has happened to me, and it won’t be the last
This morning I was suspended from Twitter for defending LGBT rights, and then swiftly unsuspended hours later. I even got an apology email from Twitter support. You can read about what happened and why here. But that story doesn’t tell the whole picture, there was some build up to this that I cut out to help the article flow. It’s quite rare to get suspended for just two tweets, especially if you have nearly 60,000 followers (blue tick when?), it usually takes repeat violations of the Twitter rules. But this isn’t the first time I’ve been punished for standing up to abuse on Twitter.
One thing that is quite common for prominent people who come out as supporting trans rights, particularly women, is for them to suddenly get a violation warning from Twitter for a tweet they sent months or even years ago. I’ve been told by ex-“Gender Criticals” (GCs) and have even seen current GCs openly talking about searching through the past tweets of people they don’t like for keywords to report them with.
I have had a few of these, every single time it has either been for me quoting a GC person, or joking with friends. Like one time when a GC man said he would send me to hospital if he caught me using the toilet in public, to which I replied “So you’re just beating up random women now are you?” and got a 12 hour ban almost instantly. It took a further week before he had to delete that tweet. Or like the first time this happened to me and I had been talking with friends about how Australians use the word cunt to mean just about anything. As soon as I gained some minor prominence and got on a GC reporting group’s radar, they found that friendly conversation from months prior and I got a 12 hour ban.
So what happened this time?
A GC man called a non-binary person who follows me an “aids ridden queer”, and they messaged me distressed about it. So I decided to “quote tweet” his tweet, which is where you show all your followers what they said and get a chance to comment on it, and I asked people to report him. A GC woman didn’t like me doing this and tried to do the standard reactionary “you silence everyone you don’t like” dance. She asked me “Is that how it works… he hurt my feelings.. everyone report .. children” to which I just responded “yeah” sarcastically. A second GC woman then cropped that bit out of context and tried to make me look bad whilst hiding from her followers the homophobic abuse that this was about.
So I then replied showing everyone the bit she cropped out…
…aaaand Twitter locked my account for 12 hours. Again. It took days before the original abusive tweet was removed, and a further tweet by him calling the same person a “poof” still remains up. Shortly after this happened the second GC woman posted evidence that she had reported me, and then appeared to provide a list of all the other LGBT accounts she had managed to get suspended, presumably in a similar fashion.
This happened this week too, and I think that three “violations” in a row is what lead to my account being suspended. Only all three of them were clearly nonsense: the first for quoting a GC man, the second for this, and the third for posting some statistics about AIDS. Fortunately as I said above Twitter has now apologised for this mess, and my account is back to square one, but that doesn’t happen to everyone who is caught by this. I presume most people don’t bother to fight it, or don’t get lucky to have a human intervene.
Who is really doing the silencing?
I personally don’t think this is solely Twitter’s algorithm glitching out three times in a row, I think that people are gaming the system and targeting LGBT people to get them suspended for standing up to the hate they receive. I think there are two important points here:
Firstly Twitter needs to do something to improve its content moderation system to stop it being weaponised against the people it is there to protect. This is a must. It’s already pretty unbearable being a trans woman on Twitter due to the unending amount of vile abuse we receive, especially given that only about 10% of the stuff that gets reported seems to be acted upon. But it’s mad if the same system meant to be helping us is making it worse. Prominent hate researcher Emily Gorcenski has some suggestions on how to do this.
Secondly it is clear that, as with all reactionaries, the GCs accusations of silencing are admissions — this is projection. They know that they are doing this in bad faith and they just don’t care.