Twitter has once again squelched discussion of transgender-related issues. The Babylon Bee has been suspended by Twitter merely for referring to a government official — Assistant HHS Secretary Rachel Levine — as a man in one of its satirical articles. (Rachel Levine was originally known as Richard Levine before identifying as female).
As law professor Eugene Volokh notes, “Twitter apparently takes the view that referring to Levine as a man—whether or not within satire or ideological criticism—violates its rules ‘against hateful conduct,’ which ban ‘promot[ing] violence against, threaten[ing], or harass[ing] other people on the basis of,’ among other things, gender identity. (Twitter’s policy states that ‘This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.’). The ban is apparently for 12 hours but only if the tweet is deleted; the Babylon Bee’s CEO is refusing to delete the tweet.”
Here’s the statement by The Babylon Bee’s CEO:
We’re not deleting anything. Truth is not hate speech. If the cost of telling the truth is the loss of our Twitter account, then so be it.
— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) March 20, 2022
As Professor Volokh notes, “Twitter is a private company and thus not constrained by the First Amendment…But given that the Supreme Court has referred to these sorts of social media platforms as ‘the modern public square,’ I think it’s worth monitoring what constraints those platforms impose on the expression of various views, whether in satire or otherwise.”
This is not the first time Twitter has censored discussion of transgender-related issues. It has done this many times, even to political and scientific speech. For example, in 2019, Twitter applied its “rules against hateful conduct” to briefly ban an expert on sexuality for stating in passing that transsexualism is a mental disorder. That was true even though the “bible of psychiatry,” the DSM-5, indicates that transsexualism is a disorder, and the expert chaired the group that worked on that section of the DSM-5. Sharing his expertise was deemed hate speech.
As Ben Bowles noted, Ray Blanchard is known for “his scholarly writing on gender confusion.” He also was “chairman of the working group on paraphilia” for the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5), in which the classification of transgenderism was changed from a serious disorder to a milder one, “gender dysphoria.” As Bowles observes, “Paraphilia is a condition characterized by abnormal sexual desires, typically involving extreme or dangerous activities.”
Blanchard tweeted a thread in which he acknowledged among other things that “transsexualism and milder forms of gender dysphoria are mental disorders.”
— Ray Blanchard (@BlanchardPhD) May 11, 2019
For that, his account was locked, along with the explanation that he had violated the social media site’s “rules against hateful conduct.”
After a public outcry, Twitter changed position and reinstated Blanchard’s account. But it never would have reinstated his account if not for all the public outcry.