Twitter now prohibits misgendering or “deadnaming” transgender people, alongside other harassment and abuse tactics. The change appears to have happened in late October, but news of it began circulating late last week. It’s part of a more general rewording of the hateful conduct policy, which now emphasizes the fact that certain groups — including transgender people — are disproportionately targeted with abuse.
The hateful conduct policy previously banned “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone.” The new policy specifies that “this includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals” — i.e., deliberately referring to a transgender person with the wrong pronouns or using their pre-transition name.
The new policy includes more detail about threats and references to violence. For instance, it bans sending “media that depicts victims of the Holocaust” or “media that depicts lynchings” to another user — a common way of harassing people that isn’t formally a threat. It also bans certain uses of hateful imagery, which includes “images depicting others as less than human, or altered to include hateful symbols, e.g., altering images of individuals to include animalistic features.”
A Twitter spokesperson told The Verge that “targeting someone because of their gender identity has always been a violation of our Hateful Conduct policy. We updated our Terms of Service earlier this year with more specifics on this type of speech to ensure our rules and how we enforce them are clear to everyone.”
The update received public attention a few days after Twitter suspended radical feminist writer Meghan Murphy, who had apparently violated its hateful conduct rules by repeatedly referring to a trans woman as a man and asking “what is the difference between a man and a trans woman?” Twitter also recently suspended high-profile far-right personality Laura Loomer, and its hate speech policies are under particularly heavy scrutiny at the moment.
But some of Twitter’s rules remain ambiguous. The platform announced a ban on “dehumanizing speech” in September, but it delayed implementing the change, and it declined to punish Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan for a tweet comparing Jewish people to termites.
We don’t really know how Twitter is going to apply the ban on deadnaming. The rule could theoretically refer to mentioning well-known pre-transition names of celebrities (like Caitlyn Jenner) without clear malice. Or Twitter could reserve it for users who maliciously publicize old names in a way that’s designed to hurt specific trans users, which seems to be the intent of the policy.