Punishment for ‘Misgendering’ Returns to X, Elon Musk’s Response Doesn’t Go Well

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AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

Punishment for “misgendering” has returned to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. The provision recently appeared in the terms of service, an excerpt of which was posted by Chaya Raichik.

The practice was widespread before Elon Musk purchased the site, with PJ Media once having its account locked for “misgendering” a government official. 

Accounts that “purposely use different pronouns to address someone other than what the person uses for themselves” will now have their visibility and reach limited. In other words, they will be shadowbanned, a popular practice under the Twitter regime. The resurrected rule is extremely broad as well, with X stating that it will go to the “target” to decide someone’s fate. That would seem ripe for abuse, as anyone could claim they were misgendered in an attempt to take down an account they don’t like. 

Musk did respond to Raichik’s post, claiming that the rule will only be enforced against those who purposefully and repeatedly target others with the “wrong” pronouns. People in the replies weren’t happy with his dismissiveness and lack of a real explanation.

Of note is that the actual language in the terms of service does not state that the rule is only enforced for “repeated” and “targeted” harassment. Further, Musk once mocked the idea of forced pronoun usage in the context of transgenderism. 

Unfortunately, a haphazard approach to account management has been a consistent trend under Musk’s leadership. Despite an overall better environment on the site for free speech, there have still been instances where the billionaire appears to be making up the rules as he goes, pushing censorship, only to change course in the face of public pressure.

Concerns about advertisers are likely driving this latest move. While understandable, I don’t think Musk can claim to be a champion of free speech if he allows his own social media site to punish people for using biologically correct pronouns to describe others.

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