On Friday 2 June, Twitter’s head of trust and safety – Ella Irwin – confirmed she had quit the company. Her departure came after owner Elon Musk endorsed an anti-transgender video shared on the platform. At least one other high-level Twitter executive – A.J. Brown – also left after the incident.
A day after Irwin’s resignation was reported in US media, she posted to Twitter:
I know there’s been a lot of speculation regarding what happened… I did resign but this has been a once in a lifetime experience.
Twitter: a company in chaos
Irwin is the second head of trust and safety to quit Twitter since Musk bought the platform. He has now reduced content moderation to essentially permit anything allowed by law.
Since taking over Twitter in late October, Musk has seemingly run the company into the ground. Although he bought the site for $44bn, its value has plummeted.
Moves made by the billionaire included sacking most of his staff, readmitting banned far-right accounts to the platform, suspending journalists, and charging for previously free services. This spooked advertisers, many of whom left the platform due to concerns over their products being associated with troubling content.
Musk said during a CNBC interview in May that he will continue to tweet his unfiltered thoughts even if it hurts his businesses. When asked what he thought of his controversial tweets making it harder to sell ads on Twitter or hurting the share price of Tesla, he said:
I don’t care… I’ll say what I want to say and if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it.
Musk: courting the far right
Irwin’s departure came after Twitter was put under pressure by backers of an anti-transgender video called ‘What Is A Woman?’. They claimed that Twitter went back on a deal made with the Daily Wire to distribute the content free on the platform.
The video was created as the pet project of self-described “theocratic fascist” Matt Walsh. Walsh’s extreme hate speech against all members of the LGBTQ+ community is well known.
For example, on the subject of gay marriage, he claimed that “a union between two homosexuals is not, never has been, and never will be a legitimate marriage”, and stated that it would become “an institution populated by all forms of depravity and corruption”.
Pink News also thoroughly documented – and debunked – his claims that the increase in the number of queer kids was because:
The media, Hollywood and the school system actively recruit children into the LGBT ranks.
‘What is a woman?’
The film itself is little better than its creator. For a start, Walsh apparently attempted to trick trans people into appearing in it by masquerading as a queer-friendly organisation.
Whilst obviously transphobic, it also dabbled in regular old misogyny – even though it notably won praise from the likes of J. K. Rowling and other ‘gender critical’ pseudofeminsts. For example, Gawker reported on the damning conclusion to its titular question:
As his wife confirms at the end of the film in the family kitchen, a woman is “an adult human female, who” — here she hands him an apparently woman-proof jar — “needs help opening this”.
The film also contains a speech given by Walsh at a school board meeting concerning the rights of trans pupils. In it, he said:
You are all child abusers. You prey upon impressionable children and indoctrinate them into your insane ideological cult, a cult which holds many fanatical views but none so deranged as the idea that boys are girls and girls are boys.
Hate speech: apparently fine now
So, obvious misogyny and queerphobia from a hatemongering fascist whom we can all agree is best ignored? Sure enough, users flagged the video for its sensitive content and promotion of hate speech.
But no! There’s a free pass, so long as you’re bashing trans people along the way.
Musk said in a Twitter exchange with the creators that people had made a mistake. The video was reinstated on the platform. A post for the video reading “Every parent should watch this” was pinned to the top of Musk’s Twitter account.
This whole sorry saga is a microcosm of the political climate around trans people at the moment. Transphobia is a gateway issue. So long as you start by saying “aren’t those transes awful?”, you can get people to nod along with pretty much any hateful shite you care to say afterwards.
Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Debbie Rowe, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, resized to 1910*1000