The Babylon Bee, a satirical right-wing site, has been suspended from Twitter due to its tweet misgendering Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The site was suspended for violating Twitter’s hateful conduct rule with its tweet saying it had selected Levine, a transgender woman, as its Man of the Year. Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon tweeted about the suspension Sunday night from his personal account.
The suspension means the Bee cannot tweet or retweet, put likes on other tweets, or obtain new followers. It was set to be lifted in 12 hours after the offending tweet is deleted, but Dillon said the Bee would not delete it, and he suggested other ways for followers to engage with the site. “Truth is not hate speech,” he tweeted. “If the cost of telling the truth is the loss of our Twitter account, then so be it.”
The Bee’s tweet was in response to USA Today naming Levine one of its Women of the Year. She is the first out trans person to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to a position in the federal government and the highest-ranking trans federal official.
The Bee is not the only Twitter user to misgender Levine. Last Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, well known for his anti-trans stances, tweeted “Rachel Levine is a man” in reaction to the USA Today article. Twitter notified him that the tweet violated the hateful conduct rule but said it had determined it was in the public interest for the tweet to remain on the site, although the message now has a filter and other restrictions.
Paxton responded Friday with a statement on Twitter, accusing “Big Tech” of being “anti-truth” and “anti-science.” He also claimed “the left” is conducting a “war against human biology, and especially against women.”
Paxton, a far-right Republican, has a long record of anti-LGBTQ+ and specifically anti-trans actions in addition to sexist ones, including his defense of a Texas law that bans most abortions. On transgender issues, last month he wrote a nonbinding legal opinion that allowing children to receive gender-affirming medical care constitutes child abuse. Gov. Greg Abbott used the opinion as a basis to direct the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who allow their children to receive such care.
A Texas court has issued an injunction blocking the investigations statewide while a lawsuit against the policy proceeds, but Paxton immediately filed an appeal of the injunction and asserted that the investigations can legally continue while the appeal is pending. Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued on behalf of a trans teen and her family, Thursday asked the Texas Third Court of Appeals for an emergency order to ensure that the statewide injunction remains in effect during the appeal.
GLAAD has called for Paxton’s tweets about Levine to be removed. “Simply ‘restricting’ harmful content is not enough,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a press release. “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. 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.”
On The Babylon Bee’s suspension, a GLAAD spokesperson emailed this statement to The Advocate: "The hateful conduct policies of Twitter, TikTok and Pinterest reflect that targeted misgendering and deadnaming of transgender people is a form of hate and harassment. All users of Twitter's platform, including anti-LGBTQ lawmakers and commentators, agree to following Twitter's terms of services, and the expectation that users refrain from targeted hate and harassment makes Twitter a safer place not just for LGBTQ people but for everyone. It's time YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and other platforms follow suit to not only create these policies but fully enforce them."
Last year, Twitter suspended the account of Jim Banks, a Republican congressman from Indiana, after he misgendered Levine in a tweet about her becoming a four-star admiral. Banks's account is now active again.