Satirical site The Babylon Bee has refused to retract after Twitter censored its account for posting a joke naming Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine as “man of the year” in 2022.
The post came as a joke regarding USA Today‘s naming of Levine, who is a transgender woman, as “woman of the year” last March 13.
Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon posted a screenshot of the Twitter notification stating that his account was suspended for “hateful conduct” and would be reinstated in 12 hours on the condition that he delete the post.
The Babylon Bee will not back down
Twitter’s message cites its policy against “hateful conduct,” which states, “You may not promote violence against, threaten or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
“We are not deleting anything,” Dillon said in a follow-up tweet, defending his post from Twitter’s censorship. “Truth is not hate speech. If the cost of telling the truth is the loss of our Twitter account, then so be it.”
Babylon Bee’s satirical article about Levine was published March 15 and its content plays on Levine’s sexual identity.
“Levine is the U.S. assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he serves proudly as the first man in that position to dress like a western cultural stereotype of a woman,” reads the post, which was not shared on Twitter. “He is also an admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. What a boss!”
The text goes on to reference Levine’s real name and his attire: “Rachel’s original name is Richard Levine, but he changed it to Rachel for some strange reason a few years ago. Who cares? Who says a dude as accomplished as this can’t be named “Rachel?” This king doesn’t care what people think about him! He often wears a dress, which some people think is weird—but he doesn’t care one bit. Come on! Men in India wear dress-type garments, don’t they?”
It seems that, in Twitter’s eyes, calling Levine by his original name or referring to her in masculine is considered “gender confusion,” intolerable behavior for the social network.
In its policy against “hateful conduct,” the platform establishes a category for “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone.”
“We prohibit targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category,” reads the section in question. “This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming [calling a transgender person by their original name] of transgender individuals.”
In the face of censorship of the Babylon Bee, Dillon pointed out a few ways supporters can help the publication. “Never censor yourselves,” was the first recommendation. “Insist that 2 and 2 make 4 even if Twitter tries to compel you to say otherwise. Make them ban tens of millions of us.”