It appears that Twitter is limiting the visibility of tweets containing the words "trans," "gay," "queer," and "LGBT" in direct messages, according to new research.
Twitter has been a hotbed of controversy and internal drama since its purchase by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in October of last year. Not only did Musk fire half of Twitter's workforce in the week following his buyout, he has also reportedly made moderation of hate speech, including anti-LGBTQ+ speech, laxer.
A study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate found, for example, that the number of tweets referring to LGBTQ+ people as "groomers" rose 119 percent since Musk took control of the platform.
Now, new evidence has come out that suggests Twitter is restricting the visibility of LGBTQ+ content sent via direct message.
The restrictions were first noticed by Twitter users before being publicized in a viral tweet from UK-based research collective Trans Safety Network.
\u201cSome preliminary testing indicates that Twitter is deboosting tweets containing certain words, including preventing them being shown as previews in DMs.\n\nCurrent suspected words include (without letters not punctuation):\n\n- Tr@ns\n- G@y\n- Lesbi@n\n- Qu\u00a3\u00a3r\n- Bisexu@l\n\nTry yourself.\u201d
— Trans Safety Network (@Trans Safety Network)
Business Insider conducted internal testing using tweets containing the terms "trans," "transgender," "gay," "lesbian," "queer," "bisexual," and "intersex." These tweets appeared in Twitter DMs as URL links rather than the standard, easy-to-read preview format. This means that in order to see the tweet content, the recipient must open the link without being aware of what it contains.
Twitter users have discovered that they can bypass the restriction by replacing certain characters with numbers or others symbols (e.g., "tr@ns" for "trans").
\u201cHey folks....anyone collating data on the twitter dm preview block.\n\nTweets that appear not to preview include:\n\n- trans\n- lgbt\n\nTweets that preview include:\n\n- tr@ns\n- trans-identified\n- LGB\n- LGBTQ\n\nAdd more as you find them.\u201d
It is suspected that this may represent a new form of content moderation targeting LGBTQ+ content. Musk, who has yet to comment on the situation, has been embroiled in controversy for engaging in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric before. In a tweet posted July 24, 2020, he wrote "Pronouns suck," and later made headlines for liking and replying to anti-trans posts from Chaya Raichik, owner of the anti-LGBTQ+, far-right Libs of TikTok account.