Elon Musk: anti-trans video dispute ends with Ella Irwin departure, here’s why

A week ago, Elon Musk’s Twitter account appeared to be transitioning into a new phase. Mass layoffs had ceased, and Musk had brought in a new permanent CEO. Additionally, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had chosen the platform as a launchpad for his Republican presidential campaign. However, within a day, the instability that has characterized Musk’s ownership of Twitter resurfaced.

Conservative pundits initiated an organized pressure campaign on Thursday, aiming to promote a 95-minute video titled “What Is A Woman?” which held an anti-transgender stance.

Musk, known for his unfavorable views towards transgender advocates, initially responded in a manner that failed to appease anyone. Eventually, he yielded and agreed to promote the video himself. As a consequence of this incident, two high-level departures occurred within a span of 24 hours.

The incident shed light on Musk’s improvisational approach to rewriting the rules on Twitter. On the same day, Ella Irwin, the chief of Twitter’s trust and safety division, resigned after leading the company’s content moderation efforts.

A.J. Brown, an executive responsible for reassuring advertisers about Twitter’s brand safety, also decided to quit. Additionally, a program manager who worked on brand safety declared herself as an “ex-Twitter” employee on her Twitter profile.

Musk attributed the departures to his decision to allow The Daily Wire, a conservative outlet, to post the video “What Is A Woman?” This move sparked a heated cultural debate and reignited the battle within Twitter.

Jeremy Boreing, CEO of The Daily Wire, lodged a complaint stating that the video was being suppressed and that Twitter had canceled their distribution deal due to instances of misgendering trans individuals in the video. Boreing regarded the incident as a free speech issue.

Under Musk’s leadership, Twitter quietly repealed the restriction on misgendering trans individuals, which had been in place since 2018. In response to Boreing’s complaint, Musk replied in a tweet that while he personally uses people’s preferred pronouns, misgendering is allowed on the platform.

Musk acknowledged that the decision was a mistake made by many people at Twitter and emphasized that not using someone’s preferred pronouns is, at most, rude but not illegal.

LGBTQ organizations swiftly criticized Musk’s decision, arguing that it would lead to increased online bullying of transgender individuals. However, the conflict surrounding the video did not end there. Even after Musk allowed its posting, Twitter users were still unable to share or comment on the film, limiting its reach. Boreing called on Musk to take further action, expressing dissatisfaction with the restrictions imposed by Twitter.

Right-wing influencer Robby Starbuck joined the campaign, demanding that Musk take action against those involved in limiting the video’s reach. Conservative Twitter users threatened to cancel their monthly subscriptions to the Twitter Blue premium service if the restrictions persisted. Eventually, Musk gave in to the pressure and made the video shareable, although it would not be placed next to advertising.

Musk later tweeted the film himself, stating that “every parent should watch this.” The video was pinned to the top of Musk’s profile, generating significant attention.

By Friday late afternoon, the “What Is A Woman?” video had accumulated over 62 million views on Twitter, according to the platform’s tally.

The Daily Wire and Matt Walsh, the star of the video, had not provided immediate comments in response to requests. However, Walsh celebrated the assistance from Elon Musk on Twitter and referred to it as “a huge win.” He sarcastically remarked, “What a great way to ring in Pride Month,” alluding to LGBTQ Pride Month beginning on June 1.

The incident highlights the ongoing challenge of stabilizing Twitter since Musk’s acquisition of the company for $44 billion seven months ago. Musk initiated a chaotic series of events that involved mass layoffs followed by rehiring of some employees. He also steered Twitter toward an ideologically conservative direction, welcoming former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and loosening certain restrictions on bullying and hateful content.

Ella Irwin, the chief of trust and safety at Twitter, had been a loyal supporter of Musk within the company. In January, Bloomberg News referred to her as the “chief executor of Musk’s whims.”

However, shortly after Musk’s decision to allow the “What Is A Woman?” video, Fortune reported that Irwin’s internal Slack account had been deactivated. In response to a request for comment, Irwin cited Musk’s tweet about the departures being related to the fight over transgender rights.

Irwin is the second head of trust and safety to resign during Musk’s tenure. Yoel Roth left the position in November, stating that the role was no longer necessary as Musk dictated the rulebook based on his own directives. Some former Twitter trust and safety employees noted that Irwin’s defense of Musk did not always gain her support from others in similar roles. It remains uncertain how much influence she had and how much worse the situation could have been without her.

During Irwin’s time at Twitter, there was an increase in hate speech targeting LGBTQ individuals, which has persisted since Musk took over the platform. Misgendering, using pronouns other than those preferred by trans individuals, is a common form of bullying, including on social media. Trans and gender nonbinary individuals often feel that misgendering invalidates their identity.

Musk’s views on trans rights differ from those of many other Silicon Valley billionaires. Dustin Moskovitz, the CEO of software firm Asana and a Facebook co-founder, suggested that individuals with views similar to Musk’s should engage in conversations with trans people to better understand their experiences.

Twitter provided an automated, noninformative response to an email requesting comment. Linda Yaccarino, the newly appointed CEO of Twitter and a former ad executive at NBCUniversal, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Information source: NBC

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