Back in August, my colleague Oliver Haimson and I submitted comments to the “Oversight Board” (an organization that Facebook, now Meta, created to allow users to appeal content moderation decisions). Although I have personally been somewhat skeptical of the Oversight Board, the case before them felt important enough that we had to weigh in.

I’ve pulled out the introduction to our remarks, and the full text is linked at the bottom. Thank you so much to Oliver for being such a thoughtful and flexible collaborator on this project.

“We are writing this comment as two experts in technology policy, content moderation, social media, and gender…In addition to our professional expertise, we are also trans people ourselves, which makes us intimately familiar with the type of marginalization Meta imposes on transgender people.

The case before the Oversight Board is an archetypal example of the harm that transgender people attempting to use social media face. In it, two trans people did not violate site policies yet were harmed not only by their images and speech being silenced, but also by the site limiting their ability to crowdfund money for surgery. It is not an isolated incident. In aggregate, both “neutral” policies that are disproportionately enforced against trans users and policies that target trans users have the effect of limiting trans people’s abilities to post content related to their marginalized identity, thus silencing their participation in the public sphere. Issues for transgender users on online platforms cannot be solved by magical thinking around equitable enforcement; they require a deeper reimagination of how bodies are understood and regulated.

Below, we discuss examples and evidence of how these processes play out in practice, and what the Oversight Board can learn from the examples in crafting a decision on the case before it. In doing so, it may be impossible for an organization like Meta to sufficiently limit the cisgender gaze in its own content moderation policies and enforcement to equitably treat transgender users. Fully addressing trans marginalization on Meta may necessitate changes to underlying nudity, sexual solicitation, and other policies to eliminate the engines of disproportionate harm, rather than attempting to create exceptions for transgender users and their content. But it is not just the policies that are problematic here—the enforcement of these policies must be carried out in a way that does not further marginalize trans people on the platform.”

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