Writer Sues Twitter Over Ban for saying “Men aren’t women”
Writer Sues Twitter Over Ban for Criticizing Transgender People
Canadian blogger tweeted ‘Men aren’t women,’ violating harassment rules on the platform
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey declared an ‘abuse emergency’ on the platform in 2016 and instituted a tougher policy against hateful conduct.
By Georgia Wells Feb. 11, 2019 11:45 p.m. ET
A Canadian writer filed a lawsuit against Twitter Inc. on Monday, saying the social-media platform unfairly banned her because her criticism of transgender rights doesn’t line up with the company’s politics.
Meghan Murphy, a gender-politics blogger, alleges that Twitter violated unfair-competition law when it changed its hateful-conduct policy late last year. Under Twitter’s new policy, users can be banned for calling a transgender individual by their pre-transition names or referring to them with the wrong pronouns. The suit alleges that change conflicts with Twitter’s previous commitment to free speech.
The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in San Francisco, combines two hot-button issues: how Silicon Valley companies should moderate content on their sites, and what protections should be provided for transgender individuals.
In the offending tweets, Ms. Murphy wrote that transgender women are the same as men, as part of her argument that gender is determined at birth. Those views are viewed by some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists as inciting hate speech against transgender people.
“Twitter claims its policies do not take into account political views,” said Noah Peters, Ms. Murphy’s lawyer. “They actually do practice viewpoint discrimination.”
Twitter said it believes Ms. Murphy’s claims are meritless, and it will defend itself against the suit.
Twitter has been criticized for the way it draws the line between free speech and harassment, as well as its ability to make these decisions consistently and fairly.
For years, Twitter executives shied away from moderation on their platform beyond extreme cases. Some early executives at the company called Twitter “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” brandishing their commitment to a marketplace of ideas where more speech could counter hate speech.
But in 2016, Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey declared an “abuse emergency” following a number of high-profile cases of Twitter users leaving the platform because of harassment from other users.
Twitter’s push to clean up its platform appears to be achieving some of its goals. While these efforts sometimes result in shutting accounts, other users tend to spend more time on Twitter when they feel more welcome. Marketers also say they are in favor of the changes, because they don’t like advertising alongside negative content. On Thursday, Twitter reported record quarterly revenue.
In the case of Twitter’s policy update for transgender issues, the company banned the practice of intentionally referring to individuals by the wrong gender or referring to their previous names, saying it can be a form of harassment. The policy was designed to make Twitter a more inclusive space for transgender individuals.
Ms. Murphy says that Twitter locked her account on Nov. 15, telling her that to regain control of her account, she would need to remove two tweets she posted the prior month. One tweet stated: “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” The other said: “Men aren’t women.”
Ms. Murphy deleted the tweets, and posted a response to Twitter, saying, “I’m not allowed to say that men aren’t women or ask questions about the notion of transgenderism at all anymore?” The post went viral, according to her suit, receiving 20,000 likes. Days later, Twitter informed Ms. Murphy that she needed to delete this tweet as well, the suit says.
Twitter then banned Ms. Murphy permanently. According to the suit, Twitter sent an email to Ms. Murphy on Nov. 23, informing her that an item she had posted previously on Nov. 8 violated the company’s hateful conduct policy because she referred to a transgender woman as “him,” according to the suit.
The suit says Ms. Murphy had tweeted “Yeeeah it’s him” to refer to an image of a Google review of a waxing salon posted by a Twitter account with a male name and a female name in parentheses. In the past year, the suit states, the person behind that account had filed complaints against aestheticians for refusing to perform Brazilian waxes due to that person’s male genitalia.