For better or worse, Twitter has become the world’s public square. In theory, an open forum where anyone can speak to anyone who cares to listen to them. The reality, of course, is rather different.
Donald Trump is perhaps the highest profile individual who cannot now tweet to the world. His @realDonaldTrump account was “permanently suspended” on January 8. But not by order of any court, for Twitter alone is prosecutor, judge and jury. Twitter determined that two of his tweets “glorified violence” and summarily silenced a sitting president of the United States.
We may or may not agree with their decision, but Twitter’s ability to exercise absolute power should worry us all. If the leader of the free world can be shown the door, what hope is there for ordinary people who take a different view to Twitter on what constitutes glorification of violence, or “hateful conduct”?
Very little, it seems. Meghan Murphy, a Canadian journalist, claims that she was banned from Twitter in 2018 for using male pronouns to describe one Jessica Yaniv. Yaniv had become notorious for gallivanting about British Columbia suing female beauticians who refused to wax Yaniv’s scrotum. The BC Human Rights Tribunal eventually found against Yaniv, declaring that Yaniv “targeted small businesses, manufactured the conditions for a human rights complaint, and then leveraged that complaint to pursue a financial settlement from parties who were unsophisticated and unlikely to mount a proper defence.” In other words, Yaniv was exposed as a bully with male genitals. But, three years on, Murphy’s account remains suspended.
It would appear that Twitter cares more about pronoun infractions than males who persecute females. Judgment is swift for women who dare to reserve female pronouns for female people, and Murphy is not the only example. For three years, Twitter user Sam Barber has catalogued the injustice that has been meted out to women who dare to speak the truth.
In 2018, Helen Saxby lost access to her account temporarily after pointing out that male to female transgender people in the UK were more likely to murder than be murdered. As a male to female transgender person myself, I know this to be true – the UK is a very safe place for trans people to live – but Saxby’s comment denied the victim culture that some transgender activists like to perpetuate.
The next year, Helen Staniland was shown the door for the words, “Men are more violent.”
That was Tweet #104 on Barber’s list. Shortly afterwards, a woman called Juliet received a lifetime ban for life daring to suggest that a male person could not be a lesbian.
In Twitter’s eyes, it is forbidden even to frame the terms of a debate. Eva Poen was locked out for stating possible definitions of the word woman. Twitter interpreted that as abuse and harassment.
The impact on debate is profound. Twitter is not a neutral platform where people with different opinions can meet to debate their arguments. Some high profile women, including JK Rowling, may survive on Twitter but their presence does not mean that many more aren’t being silenced, sometimes before they open their mouths.
Last week @tibby19 was booted out for patiently explaining that male and female are biological sexes while being mindful of men who want to be thought of as women.
The Sword of Damocles hangs over any woman who dares to speak her mind about her sex-based rights. What we see is a parody of debate where women are forced to self-censor or else be cancelled.
Men often feel they have more agency. Last night, British actor James Dreyfus told me:
“Twitter is conducting itself in the most appalling way suspending women who may say nothing more than ‘I am a woman.’ What is most shocking to me, however, is the utterly blatant and disingenuous way they implement these misogynistic & biased bans whilst regularly ignoring the most vile abuse including threats of death, rape and torture aimed, for the most part, directly at women. It’s truly abhorrent.”James Dreyfus
Developments elsewhere on the internet are no less disturbing. Reddit’s entire gender-critical subreddit was cancelled last summer. It seems that Reddit’s conduct policy now prohibited views that we all used to hold. It was no longer permissible to declare that men cannot become women, or that gender-confused children should not undergo permanent sex-change treatments, or that there are basic facts about biological sex.
Amazon – which now controls 83 percent of US book sales – have quietly removed at least one book on transgenderism. In February, the virtual marketplace stopped selling Ryan Anderson’s 2018 book, ‘When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement’. In particular, it shares the stories of adults who were encouraged to transition as children – and later greatly regretted those irreversible alterations.
Abigail Shrier – author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters – pointed out that, “Amazon gladly carries Mein Kampf without fear that anyone will attribute its anti-Semitism to the bookseller because Amazon distributes millions of titles.”
But a book about transgender regret is verboten. Shrier, whose own book remains on sale for now, added,
“had the government banned Anderson’s book, Anderson would now be headed to federal court, where he would prevail. When Amazon acts, the independent writer has nowhere to go. Anderson’s recourse? He can complain about it on Twitter, which hosts any of us only as long as it feels like it.”Abigail Shrier
A handful of upstart tech giants – all based on the West Coast of the USA – hold power greater than their national government: the ability to control the flow of information.
In 1998, British Politician Tony Benn shared his five tests for powerful people during a parliamentary debate:
“If one meets a powerful person – Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler – one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.”Tony Benn, Hansard
Benn died in 2014 but his questions remain pertinent today: International Women’s Day, no less. Women – who are being silenced for clinging to rights they once thought were secure – need answers.
But everyone who cherishes the freedom to debate reasoned arguments needs to stand with them. The policy agenda of Twitter, Reddit, Amazon and others may not be clear, but we do not live in a democracy if we hear only what they want us to hear.
Debbie Hayton is a high school teacher and trade union officer. She teaches science to 11-18-year-olds at a school in central England. As a transgender person, she has written extensively about what it means to be trans and how trans people can be included in society without compromising the rights of other vulnerable groups. Her work can be read in publications from across the political spectrum, where rational scientific debate is allowed and encouraged. Follow her on Twitter @DebbieHayton
* This article was first published by RT.com on 8 March 2021: On International Women’s Day we must ask, why are women being silenced on Twitter for stating basic biology?