Katy, Why Do You Censor Screenshots?
Answering one of my most asked questions
I often post screenshots of ridiculous, stupid and horrific things that transphobes, Gender Critical people, bigots etc say on Twitter with the goal of either laughing at them or debunking them or just showing the world how hateful lots of these people are. In fact I have a weekly YouTube show based around doing this called Terf Wars. Almost every time I post these screenshots on Twitter or in the show I censor who they come from, and very frequently people reply asking why I’ve done that.
I understand the annoyance, sometimes it might seem like I’m protecting the identity of an abusive person who deserves to be outed for how they’re acting, and other times it might even seem like it reduces the credibility of my posts if you can’t see who has said these horrible things. But I’ve weighed up the pros and cons and decided that it’s the best thing to do, and I encourage you to do so too if you have a large platform.
Ok, so what are the pros and cons?
The main reason I do it is because I have a large platform and most of these people do not. You don’t quite know how horrible it is to get a pile on from hundreds or even thousands of people until it happens. It is quite a common Gender Critical (The politically correct term for the UK’s anti-trans movement, GC from here) tactic to target someone and all pile on at the same time so they are left feeling isolated and that they shouldn’t dare speak out again in future. I don’t want to do the same thing as them, I don’t want to stoop to their level. And importantly I don’t need to, my arguments stand up on their own, I don’t need to intimidate people into not arguing back unlike them.
Censoring people also stops your mistakes being even worse. Whilst I always double check before posting anything, we’ve all misread something, or got people mixed up before. Although I of course will delete and apologise if I do make a mistake, a mistake can cause a lot more damage if it’s got someone’s name attached to it. Getting added to a block list or something because a larger trans account mistakes you for a transphobic person can cause problems for ages.
As I said above, the reason I’m sharing these screenshots is for a range of reasons: either to debunk bad ideas, expose bad ideas, laugh at bad ideas… it’s all about combating bad ideas, not bad people, and I think (hope) that is the best way to combat the current anti-trans panic. Rather than combating transphobes as people one at a time in the largest, shittest game of whack-a-mole, we can combat their ideas and cut through vast swathes of their nonsense at once.
Another concern is platforming people who are in this for clout or infamy. If someone with 300 followers says something dumb and then someone with 41,000 followers amplifies it then they will just get seen by more people, some of whom will be fellow bigots. I’ve seen it before where some transphobic loser has doubled their following (and boasted about it) because a bigger trans ally shared their tweet uncensored.
People can change their minds! Sometimes a screenshot can blow up and end up on blogs and in videos and everywhere, effectively immortalised by the internet. It can be tempting to think “if you say something that vile today you deserve to have it follow you around for the rest of your life” and I get it, emotionally I think that sometimes, but it’s not how we should deal with this kind of thing. Someone who commits a crime and goes to jail and serves their time doesn’t deserve to be haunted by that for the rest of their life when they may well have grown and become a better person. For sure go ahead and obliterate every bad idea that someone has, but give them room to grow.
Finally GC people are very litigious, they really, really do not like you talking about what they’re saying or doing. I’ve received several serious threats of legal action for pointing out transphobia or even just reporting on what someone has said word for word. Whilst these are often bluster, GC people have a lot of money, very little sense, no ability at all to rationally justify their positions, and a lot of motivation to hurt trans people. Even if you are sure to win a case it’s still incredibly stressful going through all the legal dancing before it gets that far.
What are the exceptions?
Sometimes it is important who is saying these things. If a random GC person says something homophobic then it is just yet more evidence of the inherent nature of their homophobic ideology and it doesn’t really matter who said it, as long as it clearly is the result of having a GC worldview. However if it was said by a representative of a group pretending to care about gay rights as part of their strategy to attack trans people for example, then it is relevant to highlight who said it. Again though if it is a tiny group with a small reach then it’s still probably not worth it.
The other main exception is celebrities and institutions. If it’s someone super famous or is a faceless institution then there’s not really anything to be gained in censoring them, and it is probably futile too.
I also try and keep non-identifying key information. In the post at the top of this article, along with the date of their post, you can see one of their profile pictures. It’s not an identifiable profile picture, but it shows that this person supports Dr Lisa Littman, the author of the very poor study about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria”. This is a very clear GC dogwhistle and so highlights that this person is definitely GC and not just any old transphobic person (isn’t it tedious that there are genres of transphobe). A good example of this is that I always leave an #IStandWithJKR hashtag uncensored as that is a sure sign that someone has bought into transphobic conspiracy theories.
In the end I’m just trying to do The Right Thing™ whilst combating the rising anti-trans hatred in the UK to the best of my ability. If you disagree with my methods and think all my arguments here are rubbish then you can do things your own way, I’m not an expert, just bear in mind I have a tediously large platform. I know it seems a little bit like I’m doing the “when they go low, we go high” nonsense that never really works, and to an extent I am, but without your integrity you are nothing.