After news broke that Elon Musk had reached a deal to purchase Twitter and take it private, a number of questions remained: What kinds of changes would the avowed “free speech” champion make to the website? Would those changes be good for marginalized communities, who have historically faced near-unchecked harassment and little support on the social media platform? Would the deal even go through, given Musk’s propensity for trollish behavior and unpopularity with the stock market?
Some answers have slowly come to light in the weeks since, and they’re not pretty, especially for the future safety of marginalized communities. This Tuesday, Musk told the audience of a Financial Times conference that, should his deal to take over the platform go through, he would restore posting privileges to former president Donald Trump after the platform banned him following the January 6 invasion for “inciting violence.” Musk called the permaban a “morally bad decision, to be clear, and foolish in the extreme,” per Yahoo News.
“I think that was a mistake because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice,” Musk added, noting that Trump had launched his own app, TRUTH Social, and that that could lead to the platform becoming a haven for the right. “And so I think this could end up being, frankly, worse than having a single forum where everyone can debate.”
The rollout of TRUTH Social, however, has been widely reported as a massive failure. It’s also sadly untrue that the right wing was alienated by the move to ban Trump. Take Libs of TikTok, a Twitter account that often puts LGBTQ+ people on blast by reposting their videos and smearing them as “groomers,” has enjoyed runaway success, garnering over 1 million followers, including Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan. Both have featured content from the account on their shows, exhibiting that QAnon levels of mass delusion are alive and well on the bird app.
This would be potentially the worst possible time for Trump to return to Twitter, especially with midterm elections coming in November. Aside from that, though, Trump has doubled down on transphobia since leaving office, promising to ban trans women from sports if reelected and claiming that “extremist sex and gender ideology” is “waging war on reality, war on science, war on children, war on women.” While he certainly passed his fair share of transphobic policies while in office, Trump’s rhetoric has seldom been this direct when it comes to attacking young trans people, a trend that’s in keeping with the general party line of the GOP.
But the impact that Trump returning to Twitter would have on trans people is terrifying to think about. Studies have already shown that Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in anti-Asian content on Twitter; simultaneously, hate crimes against Asian-Americans increased 339% during 2021. Especially considering that the anti-trans smear of choice is genuine accusations of child predation, the implications of Trump potentially emboldening his supporters to take action against trans people are chilling.
Even if Trump’s tweets somehow didn’t lead to increased physical violence, the psychic damage he would cause is potentially just as harmful. Research has shown that the onslaught of anti-trans bills in state legislatures has negatively affected LGBTQ+ youth mental health nationwide, even if those bills don’t end up having any practical effect.
So for once, let’s hope that the stock market is right and that the deal with Musk falls through. Not that Twitter in its current form is extremely trans friendly, either, but let’s not find out how much worse it could get.
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