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1 Jun, 2023 20:09

Musk says decision to cancel gender film a ‘mistake’

Twitter had earlier ditched a planned stream of 'What Is a Woman?' for ‘misgendering’ its subjects
Musk says decision to cancel gender film a ‘mistake’

Twitter’s decision to cancel an agreement with conservative media outlet Daily Wire to stream its gender-critical documentary ‘What Is A Woman?’ was down to an employee mistake, the platform’s CEO Elon Musk claimed on Thursday, amid thousands of outraged tweets.

This was a mistake by many people at Twitter. It is definitely allowed,” Musk tweeted in response to a thread by Daily Wire co-founder Jeremy Boreing, referring to the film’s alleged sins of “misgendering.” Musk added that he personally chose to respect people's pronouns but did not think failing to do so should be cause for violence or censorship.

While the billionaire did not elaborate on where in the decision-making chain things had gone awry, he explained that using the incorrect pronoun to address someone was “at most rude and certainly breaks no laws.” 

After initially agreeing to stream ‘What is a Woman?’ for free for 24 hours to celebrate one year since its premiere and even offering the Daily Wire a customized promotional package tailored to its needs – an agreement that Boreing claimed was sealed with a signed agreement – Twitter staff asked to see the film, supposedly to understand what parts were likely to “trigger” users so as to better prepare their response.

Upon watching the film, Twitter staff allegedly forbid the Daily Wire from purchasing the package it had initially offered, promising to limit the film’s reach and label it “hateful conduct” because of two instances of “misgendering.” In one scene, a father refers to his 14-year-old female-born offspring as “her,” and in the other, a store owner uses the “wrong” pronoun during an altercation with a trans person.

When reminded that they had removed “misgendering” from their content policy, Twitter staff countered that it was still implicitly included under the heading of “abuse and harassment.” The platform reportedly offered the Daily Wire the chance to edit the offending scenes out of the film, which filmmaker Matt Walsh declined to do. 

Despite Musk’s insistence the decision had been a mistake, Boreing pointed out that Walsh’s attempts to post clips of the two scenes were still flagged as “hateful conduct.” The share functions on both posts remained disabled as of Thursday afternoon. Walsh also accused the platform of manually removing ‘What Is a Woman?’ from the trending topics list.

Musk’s claims of free-speech absolutism have come under scrutiny in recent weeks following the announcement that NBC Universal advertising chief and World Economic Forum exec Linda Yaccarino would be taking over as Twitter’s CEO. The platform has also significantly increased its compliance with government content takedown requests, from 50% pre-Musk to 80% since his acquisition.