SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter says it has removed thousands of tweets showing a poster promoting a “trans day of vengeance” protest in support of transgender rights in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of Trust and Safety, said in a tweet Wednesday that the company automatically removed more than 5,000 tweets and retweets of a poster promoting the event.
“We do not support tweets that incite violence irrespective of who posts them. “Vengeance” does not imply peaceful protest. Organizing or support for peaceful protests is ok,” Irwin tweeted.
In removing the tweets, Twitter said it used automated processes to do it quickly at a large scale, without considering what context the tweets were shared in. Because of this, both tweets that were critical of and those that supported the protests were removed.
This appeared to anger many conservative Twitter users who said the rules were unfairly applied to them because they were posting the image of the protest flyer to speak out against it. But trans activists were quick to point out that “trans day of vengeance” is a meme that has been around in the trans community for years and is not a call to violence—and said Twitter is misguided in its reasoning behind removing the tweets in support of the protest.
Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit liberal advocacy group Fight for the Future, said Twitter’s actions are “the latest example of Big Tech companies employing double standards in content moderation.”
“They are slow to moderate content targeting trans people, but quick to silence us when we speak out or push back. ’Trans Day of Vengeance’ is not a specific day or a call for violence. It’s a meme that’s been around for years, a way of expressing anger and frustration about oppression and violence the trans community faces daily,” Greer said. “Context is everything in content moderation, which is why content policies should be based in human rights and applied evenly, not changed rapidly based on public pressure or news cycles.”
The poster in question is a largely text-based digital flyer. It reads “we want more than visibility” on top, followed by “trans day of vengeance” and “stop trans genocide” as well as the date and time of the planned protest.
Many of the tweets Twitter removed were from conservative users sharing an image of the flyer in an attempt to connect the planned protests with the recent school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. In the aftermath of the shooting, some right-wing activists and commentators have seized on the gender identity of the shooter in order to denounce transgender people and advocates, call transgender people violent, and “evil,” and insinuate they are planning to engage in violence. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, was among the Twitter users whose account was affected.
The shooting is still under investigation. As of Wednesday, police have shared no evidence that the shooter’s gender or gender identity played a role in the shooting.
On its website, the group organizing Saturday’s protest said it does not condone violence. In a statement posted on the site, the Trans Radical Activist Network and other organizers also strongly rejected any connection between the school shooting in Nashville and Saturday’s protest, which organizers said was planned before the shooting took place.
“Vengeance means fighting back with vehemence,” the protest’s organizers wrote on their website. “We are fighting against false narratives, criminalization, and eradication of our existence.”
Twitter, both currently under Elon Musk and before the billionaire bought the company, has long prohibited the incitement of violence in tweets. In early March, Twitter announced what it called a new policy prohibiting “violent speech” on its platform, though the new rules appear similar to guidelines against violent threats that the company had on its books before Musk took over.
Among the updates, Twitter had expanded its policy to include a ban on “coded language,” which is often referred to as “dog whistles,” used to indirectly incite violence. It also added a rule that prohibits “threatening to damage civilian homes and shelters, or infrastructure that is essential to daily, civic, or business activities.”