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Artillery Row

Social media platforms are still stifling debate

Platforms like Instagram and Eventbrite should learn that a belief in biological sex does not amount to “hate”

You used to know where you stood with organisations, who took your money and provided a service. They existed to make a profit. It was in their interests to provide a good service, or you might take your money elsewhere. The customer was King. Or Queen. 

But then something shifted — alongside growing social tolerance for difference and a noble desire to right historical oppression against marginalised minority groups. Many private companies, particularly those in tech based industries from North America, became focused on their public image and their commitment to statements of morality and wider “purpose”. These soon became integral to their success and survival.  

What started as merely performative and annoying has become much more sinister. Private organisations have established a de facto monopoly on crucial internet services. Instead of existing to serve us in exchange for our money, these organisations now judge us and find us wanting. If we do not comply with their moral statement of purpose, then they will deny us their services. Nobody voted for them, their rules and demands are often obscure, their appeals process non existent. And there appears to be nothing we can do about it. 

I organised an event in December 2022 to launch a self published collection of stories from men and women about how they came to join the debate about sex and gender, Transpositions: a personal journey into gender criticism. I set up a page with Eventbrite UK to sell tickets for the event. Eventbrite took down my page citing violation of its policy on Hateful, Dangerous, or Violent Content and Events. A freedom of information request discovered some interesting internal communications, conceding that I probably wasn’t “hateful” but Eventbrite had a conveniently very wide definition of “hate” which included disparagement, and I would be judged as failing to meet that standard.  I was very annoyed about this — nothing about the belief that sex is real and consequential entails “hate” or even “disparagement”. 

I set up a crowdfunder to try and make a legal challenge, arguing that Eventbrite were in breach of section 29 of the Equality Act 2010 which states that a “service-provider” must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing that person with the service, by termination of the provision of the service or by subjecting the person to any other detriment. Eventbrite simply denied they were a service provider and if I wanted to argue about it, I had accepted their terms and conditions and therefore had to commence legal action in San Francisco. 

I managed to raise about £20K via crowdfunding which was soon swallowed up in solicitors’ letters and conferences. The thought of embarking on litigation in San Francisco, with the inevitable risk of costs was terrifying; I let it go. 

I wish I had had a spare million dollars to pursue such an action, as things appear to be getting worse. The Free Speech Union reported on June 9th   about the sudden purge of Instagram  accounts belonging to those with sex realist views.

One of these accounts was Sex Matters, who were permanently suspended for breaking the website’s “community guidelines”. Sex Matters is of course the registered charity set up by Maya Forstater in the wake of her 2021 court victory which established that a belief that sex is real and it matters is worthy of respect in a democratic society and protected by the Equality Act. 

Such social media accounts are not mere narcissistic fripperies; they have become essential tools of communication and reach and there is no effective competition. To deny access to such platforms is a real world detriment. 

They can smear and deplatform us for alleged “hate” which is nothing of the kind

I assume organisations like Eventbrite and Instagram make a profit from their operations in the UK or they wouldn’t be here. And yet they seem to be above our laws. They can smear and deplatform us for alleged “hate” which is nothing of the kind. Rather, it is the exercise of our fundamental human right to free expression and freedom from unlawful discrimination, protected by our laws. 

The boundaries between private interests and efforts to impose an organisation’s own moral code on the wider public is becoming dangerously blurred. This has serious implications for the health of our democracy. We will have to accept that in reality we are the dancing monkeys of private profit making organ grinders based thousands of miles away who have no democratic mandate. We comply or we will not be permitted to exist in the digital world. 

Had Elon Musk not purchased Twitter, now X, things would be exponentially more bleak. There would not be a single social media platform where sex realists would be allowed to operate freely.

While I am of course grateful for Elon Musk for taking a stand, it is indicative of the very problem. We are the playthings of internet billionaires whose sense of self righteousness makes our laws redundant. And that’s great if you happen to agree with them. Terrible if you don’t.

Since this was written, Sex Matters have confirmed their account has been restored. This is excellent news but of course it should never have been suspended in the first place. The price of freedom will remain eternal vigilance. Will any of our politicians step up?

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