Twitter has locked the account of The Babylon Bee, a right-wing parody site, after it awarded Admiral Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary of Health for the Department of Health and Human Services, with the title “man of the year.”
The Babylon Bee article was written in reaction to USA Today‘s naming of Levine as one of its “women of year” last week.
The article, which deadnames Levine by using her former name, mockingly praises her as “the first man in [her] position to dress like a western cultural stereotype of a woman,” and notes that Levine was recently named a four-star admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
“He often wears a dress, which some people think is weird — but he doesn’t care one bit. Come on! Men in India wear dress-type garments, don’t they?” reads the article.
Then, in a mock “update,” the article reads: “Since announcing this award, we’ve been told that Levine actually identifies as a woman. We have still chosen to give the award as his self-identification has no bearing on the truth. Congratulations, Rachel Levine!”
Twitter has said it will restore the account, which has more than 1.3 million followers, if the Bee deletes the tweet about the article, but Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon is refusing to comply.
“We’re not deleting anything,” Dillon tweeted from his personal account, attaching a screenshot of the notice from Twitter. “Truth is not hate speech. If the cost of telling the truth is the loss of our Twitter account, then so be it.”
In the notice, Twitter said the account had been “temporarily blocked” for violating its “hateful conduct policy,” which states: “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”
The policy also has a clause that prohibits “targeted harassment” or “expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category.”
“We prohibit targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals. We also prohibit the dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” the policy states.
A Twitter spokesperson told the New York Post that the Bee’s account had been blocked for violating the hateful conduct policy.
“The account owner is required to delete the violative Tweet before regaining access to their account,” the spokesperson told the newspaper.
The LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD recently slammed Twitter for refusing to take action against a similar tweet by Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton misgendering Levine. GLAAD noted that the tweet was a violation of Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, but that Twitter has restricted it instead of deleting it, claiming it may be “in the public interest” to keep the tweet publicly accessible under the company’s public interest policy exception.
Twitter has since restricted, but not removed, a second tweet complaining about “Big Tech censorship” that doubles down on his earlier Levine tweet, and a third tweet misgendering UPenn swimmer and NCAA women’s 500-yard freestyle champion Lia Thomas.
In contrast, GLAAD noted how Twitter moved quickly to suspend U.S. Rep. Jim Banks’ (R-Ind.) Twitter account in October 2021 for targeted misgendering of Levine. Last month, the company removed a tweet misgendering Thomas from the personal account of U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), now running for the U.S. Senate, and suspended the account.
“Simply ‘restricting’ harmful content is not enough,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “Platforming harmful anti-trans rhetoric is not in the public’s interest. Social media companies have a responsibility to remove harmful anti-trans content that violates their own policies.
“As a four-star admiral and Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Levine is beyond worthy of USA Today‘s Women of the Year list, and she, like any human being, is worthy of respect,” Ellis continued. “It is clear that some politicians see pushing malicious, anti-trans content on social media as part of their election strategy, even with the full knowledge that such content is violative and likely to be removed from the platforms or even get them suspended. This is absolutely shameful. Politicians and social media platforms can and must do better.”
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