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Double Standards

Elon Musk’s Anti-Trans Twitter Regime

Not content with reactivating accounts that spewed anti-trans content, Musk’s Twitter has now banned a group that organizes to protect people at LGBTQ events from far-right violence.

Two people stand holding flowers in front of a pile of flowers and candles.
Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post/Getty Images
A mourner brings flowers to leave at the growing memorial where hundreds of flowers, balloons, signs, and remembrances have been left for the victims of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

No surprises here: Elon Musk is now devoting the powers of his rapidly dwindling workforce to reactivating the Twitter accounts of violence-promoting reactionaries suspended before he took over. On Friday, for example, he proudly announced the restoration of two accounts suspended for posting anti-transgender content. But now it seems he’s not done. As an anti-trans moral panic pushed by Musk-favored Twitter accounts like Libs of TikTok escalates, and in the wake of the massacre at Club Q, a queer club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Musk’s regime has also banned an account run by people mobilizing against anti-LGBTQ violence.

On Tuesday, Twitter suspended the account of the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club, or EFJBGC—as first reported by journalist Steven Monacelli. The John Brown Gun Club assists marginalized communities in defending themselves from white supremacist and fascist violence. “John Brown Gun Club isn’t so much an organization as it is a declaration of intent and commitment to abolitionist principles,” its website states. More concretely, as its Mastodon profile describes its mission, though its members may carry firearms, it is “not a militia.” The reason given for its account suspension, an Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club contributor told The New Republic, was that it had violated Twitter rules against “hateful conduct,” with two tweets cited: a reply to the official account of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“Mugging at gun point,” reads the reply to an unspecified CBP post) and another post with what seems like a retort to the perpetual conservative nonjoke about pronouns, “Every queer a riflethem.”

As Kim Kelly reported for The Guardian in 2019, John Brown Gun Clubs gained visibility across the country during the Trump years as white supremacist and far-right threats to LGBTQ communities were becoming more common. In the past year, as those threats have specifically targeted LGBTQ community venues and events, Efjbgc has been active in defending events like all-ages drag brunches and storytimes, where far-right groups attempt to intimidate and menace people in attendance, as well as those defending them. For the Efjbgc account to be suspended two days after the massacre at Club Q—which was due to host an all-ages drag brunch the day after the shooting—seems, at best, like one bad moderation call among many. And when you then consider the context of other accounts being reactivated, it starts to look quite deliberate.

Twitter’s suspension of the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club comes within four days of Musk welcoming back the Christian conservative “satire” site The Babylon Bee, which was locked out of Twitter for a transphobic tweet directed at Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Restoring the account was a day one priority for Musk, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday: “Hours after Elon Musk took control of Twitter in late October, the Trust and Safety team responsible for combating hate speech on the site received an urgent directive: Bring back the Babylon Bee.”

After the Babylon Bee account was locked earlier this year, Musk personally called Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon—so Dillon claims. Musk also recently joked with one of Dillon’s business partners about having fired a Twitter employee who criticized him. That business partner is Chaya Raichik, who runs the the Libs of TikTok account, and who has been suspended several times and continues to engage in targeted harassment of queer and trans people. The Twitter trust and safety team engaged in a one-day sick-out in protest of such demands to reinstate previously suspended accounts—including Jordan Peterson, male supremacist and meat-obsessive who said he would “rather die” and lose his account than delete a tweet using actor Elliot Page’s deadname; Meghan Murphy, the Laura Loomer of TERFism who sued Twitter to get her account back after she was banned four years ago for transphobic tweets; and the former president, Donald Trump, who attempted to remain in office after promoting insurrectionary violence—before Musk prevailed last Friday.

Musk does not, however, seem to be extending account reactivations more broadly. He has maintained the suspension, for instance, of the Distributed Denial of Secrets group, whose work providing hacked documents to journalists has helped expose systems of police abuse, such as the surveillance of protestors and law enforcement membership in the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers. The Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club has also been a resource for journalists, as have related anti-fascist researchers, in identifying individuals who threaten queer and trans communities with violence. I’ve used their videos to assist in my own reporting, videos which are now not accessible on Twitter, to track far-right groups. “The irony isn’t lost on us that our suspension coincides with a coordinated effort to reinstate the most vile antisemitic, transphobic hate accounts,” the Efjbgc contributor said in a statement to TNR. “Whether this is an indication of the future of leadership of Elon Musk’s running of Twitter, we cannot say but we can say that the timing and reasoning is deliberate and targeted.”