The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Twitter Suspends Satire Site Babylon Bee for Tweet, "The Babylon Bee's Man of the Year is Rachel Levine"

The tweet was apparently aimed at mocking Time Magazine for calling Rachel Levine its "Woman of the Year."


Rachel Levine is an admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and is male-to-female transgender; Twitter apparently takes the view that referring to Levine as a man—whether or not within satire or ideological criticism—violates its rules "against hateful conduct," which ban "promot[ing] violence against, threaten[ing], or harass[ing] other people on the basis of," among other things, gender identity. (Twitter's policy states that "This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.")

The ban is apparently for 12 hours but only if the tweet is deleted; the Babylon Bee's CEO is refusing to delete the tweet:

For more, see Newsweek (Gerrard Kaonga) and the New York Post (Ariel Zilber), among other outlets.

Of course, Twitter is a private company and thus not constrained by the First Amendment. (Whether or not it could and should be constrained by state or federal statutes is a separate question, but as of now no federal statutes restraining Twitter's discretion on this have been enacted, and the few state statutes that have been enacted are being challenged and have been preliminarily blocked by courts.) But given that the Supreme Court has referred to these sorts of social media platforms as "the modern public square," I think it's worth monitoring what constraints those platforms impose on the expression of various views, whether in satire or otherwise.