X Has Quietly Reinstated Rules Against Misgendering and Deadnaming

New rules discouraging deadnaming and misgendering have been quietly rolled out on X, formerly Twitter, in what appears to be a reversal of course from the social media company’s owner Elon Musk.

Under Musk’s direction last April, X repealed a section of its Hateful Conduct policy that banned the “targeted misgendering and deadnaming” of transgender users — a rule that was originally implemented back in 2018, with penalties up to and including suspension from the platform. Now, a version of those rules have been partially reinstated just as quietly as they were repealed, as Ars Technica reported on Thursday.

A new section of X’s Abusive Behavior policy titled “Use of Prior Names and Pronouns” specifically guards against “posts that purposefully use different pronouns to address someone […] or that use a previous name” to degrade a trans user. If moderators find that a user violated the rules, they may make the post(s) “less visible” or require that they be removed. But the revised rule also specifies that only the person who is being deadnamed or misgendered may report a violation. Based on archived versions of X’s policies on the Wayback Machine, the policy update seems to have gone into effect between January 24 and January 27 this year.

On Friday, “Libs of TikTok” founder Chaya Raichik excoriated Musk for giving “special treatment” to trans users, and claimed anti-trans posters are now “forced to lie.” In a reply to Raichik, Musk stated that the new policy is “just about repeated, targeted harassment of a particular person.” Replying to another user who asked if he would reverse the policy once again, Musk stated that he was “looking into it.” CEO Linda Yaccarino has not publicly commented on the changes.

Jenni Olson, senior director of social media safety at GLAAD, told Ars that specific policies protecting trans users are “really important” for online safety. “This is not about accidentally getting someone’s pronouns wrong,” Olson told Ars. “That’s fine. That happens. This is about targeted misgendering and deadnaming with a clear intent of expressing hate and disrespect and contempt.” Even so, Olson added, X’s new policy still places an unfair burden on victims to self-report their own abuse, and reducing visibility is “a step back” from removing hateful content outright.

Since his awkward takeover and renaming of the company in 2022, Musk has used the once-ubiquitous social media hub as a platform for his own anti-trans views, promoting transphobic accounts and implementing bizarre new rules like a ban on the term “cisgender” (still ostensibly in effect). In the past year, Musk filed lawsuits against nonprofit organizations Media Matters and the Center for Countering Digital Hate, alleging that both groups acted inappropriately when compiling reports about rising levels of hate speech on X.

It’s unclear whether the policy rollback will lure trans users back to the site. Journalists, public figures, and LGBTQ+ advocates alike have abandoned X since Musk’s arrival, citing increasing toxicity and safety concerns. Musk did his company no favors last November when he posted a comment supporting an antisemitic conspiracy theory, which White House spokesperson Andrew Bates called “abhorrent.”

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