WRITTEN EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY LGB ALLIANCE (TFP0038)
- LGB Alliance was formed in October 2019 in response to the refusal of Stonewall, once itself an LGB rights campaigning organisation, to engage in any discussion on issues of sex and gender and how they relate to LGB people. Specifically, this includes challenging the notion that everyone has a gender identity, which must take precedence over biological sex.
- Our main areas of interest are the human rights of LGB people, fact-based education of children and young people and the creation of a positive environment for all "gender non-conforming" people in the UK. LGB Alliance believes that “gender identity theory” reinforces outdated and regressive stereotypes. We would like to see a world where any boy or girl, man or woman, can dress and be whoever they would like to be as long as they respect the rights of others.
- Most broadcasters and print media avoid these issues. Many tell us they do so because they can’t face the inevitable backlash from gender ideology activists. We therefore rely on Twitter, newsletters and webinars to disseminate our views. Fifteen LGB Alliances have now been established worldwide, from Brazil to Australia – and in the UK we now have over 40k followers on Twitter.
- UK political discourse is increasingly conducted on large foreign-owned and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and this trend has accelerated due to lockdown when physical meetings were not possible. These online platforms are starting to become the public square where political ideas are discussed, individuals’ views are aired and potential unintended consequences of proposed changes in the law are raised and examined. As more Government depts, public bodies, political parties, politicians and journalists use these platforms to communicate, it becomes ever more important that everyone has access to join the debate.
- Despite their important role in our democracy, these platforms are not overseen by UK authorities. The providers of these platforms – privately owned foreign tech companies – have significant power to shape and direct discussions that form part of our democratic processes. This is done through their access and moderation policies. This is extremely concerning, for example in the case of Twitter, where guidelines written and enforced by the corporation based in California dictate who may / may not take part in a public debate on UK laws.
- Under these guidelines, accounts can be, and frequently are, permanently withdrawn, with no effective right of appeal. In contrast, many death and rape threats are allowed to stand. Even if accounts are not withdrawn, many users become afraid to discuss issues, preferring to self-censor and remain silent for fear of being banned. This has a chilling effect on their freedom – under UK law – to express legitimate views. This impacts women (including lesbians) disproportionately as studies have shown that they are subject to far greater levels of online threats and intimidation.
- Those brave individuals who do persevere are left unable to use clear and straightforward language, since they do their best to avoid the sanctions of Twitter’s corporate policing. This enforced obfuscation has the effect of hindering discussion of these issues. Being forced to use less clear language also excludes many people in the UK with lower literacy levels from the discussion.
- A case in point is the discussion on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act and their potential implications and related court cases that are in the news. This discussion is part of the basic democratic process. Unacceptably, through the actions of the Twitter corporation, women (and disproportionately lesbians) are being excluded from this process having lost access to the digital public square where these potential future changes in laws affecting their rights are being discussed.
- The recent ruling in the Maya Forstater appeal established that the absence of belief in gender ideology is protected under the UK Equality Act (2010). It is therefore unacceptable for UK users of Twitter and Facebook to be thrown off the digital public square through the implementation of guidelines and enforcement policies designed in California by gender ideology supporting technology giants.
- Another interesting case study is LGB Alliance’s own Twitter account. LGB Alliance is reliant on social media, newsletters and webinars to communicate our message, as other channels such as TV, radio and newspapers are largely unwilling to present our views. Since setting up in Oct 2019, LGB Alliance has tweeted messages almost every day. Not one has been criticised by Twitter. Our social media policy states that we avoid ad hominem remarks and maintain a balanced and courteous approach. On 5th June we were notified that our account was verified: it was marked with the “Blue Tick” signifying this verification – and kept it for 4 days! By 9th June it had disappeared. Our account is still marked in the settings as “verified” but lacks the sign to prove it to the outside world. No explanation has been forthcoming despite our requests. A Blue Tick is particularly important for LGB Alliance which has many detractors who often set up impersonator accounts in an attempt to cause us reputational damage by appearing to tweet in our name. We do not know why the tick was removed given that our account has been verified – but we suspect this may be another example of the Californian culture of promoting gender identity theory coming into conflict with those who, like us, prefer to promote facts around biology, sex, gender and LGB issues.
MESSAGE FROM TWITTER 5th June 2021:
We've got great news! Your application was approved and we can officially confirm that you’re verified — cue the confetti! You should now see the blue verified badge next to your Twitter name. Haven’t looked yet? Go on, we’ll give you a minute...
As you know, a verified badge tells people that your account is notable and authentic. And being a part of this “blue badge” Twitter community comes with responsibility. We hope you use it well. (Serious voice) All accounts, including verified accounts, need to follow the Twitter Rules. To keep your verified status, please keep in mind that your Twitter account must always be complete. This means having either a verified email address or phone number, a profile image, and a display name. Any verified account in severe or repeated violation of our rules may lose their blue badge”.
- This stifling of debate can also have real-life implications and cause harm. It has prevented the legitimate concerns about the irreversible treatment pathways that gender-confused children are being put on, from being listened to and acted on in a timely manner. It is possible that an indeterminate number of children – and the evidence shows that three-quarters of the teens attending gender clinics are girls, a majority of them lesbians – have been sent down a path of needless, lifelong medicalisation. We are seeing an increasing number of detransitioners who would have been saved a lot of anguish had there not been such a concerted effort to silence this debate.
- As the UK enters trade talks with the US, many LGB people and women are concerned that the Biden administration will push for further efforts to silence those who disagree with gender identity theory. (Discussions on human rights often accompany trade talks. ) The Biden administration shares the same belief structure as the California social media giants which seeks to silence dissenting views. It will be important for the UK government to stand up for freedom of expression for all.
- The present situation demonstrates the power of large global social media corporations to control national policy debates across international borders by effectively silencing one side of the debate and thereby interfering with the public discussions that are central to the democratic process. This is not acceptable to us and should not be acceptable to any democratic society.
- We believe that the FCO should pursue international discussions to highlight and address this issue in the relevant international fora. It is not acceptable for national policy discussions across the world to be conducted within the very tight framework dictated by the values of Californian technology giants, particularly where they appear to be pursuing a particular agenda – in the case set out in our submission relating to gender ideology.
- In parallel, we consider that the appropriate UK regulatory authorities need to establish effective UK processes to mitigate the corporations’ powers and ensure fair access to the digital public square based on UK equality legislation. Examples of specific actions to explore include:
- Establishing an appeals process based in the UK and based on UK laws where users can get their accounts reinstated should they be withdrawn for reasons that are incompatible with UK law.
- Introducing rules to stop politicians, public servants/bodies and 3rd sector organisations that are in receipt of public funding from using certain features to avoid criticism on social media platforms – specifically, “blocking” accounts to avoid seeing posts they do not agree with even where those concerned are asking legitimate questions in a respectful manner.
22 June 2021