A Twitter spokesperson told CNA, "The enforcement action was taken in error and has been reversed."
Catholic World Report was launched in 1991. It is published by Ignatius Press, a Catholic publishing company founded over four decades ago by Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., a former student of Pope Benedict XVI.
The Catholic media outlet was informed of the Twitter suspension Jan. 24. It sought further explanation in a Jan. 25 message appealing the decision.
“Our support team has determined that a violation did take place, and therefore we will not overturn our decision,” the social media giant replied Jan. 27. “You will not be able to access Twitter through your account due to violations of the Twitter Rules.”
While the publication declined to delete the post, as of Feb. 1, its Twitter account had been unlocked online, and the post is still visible. There was a six-day gap between its Jan. 23 and Jan. 29 tweets.
Catholic World report went “entirely online” in late 2011, the same time period in which it launched its Twitter account, Olson said in a Jan. 28 blog post. The publication now has about 8,500 followers on Twitter. Most of its posts to Twitter have been links to “articles, reviews, interviews, and news briefs, with a headline, short descriptive, and links.”
Twitter had said the tweet about Levine violated rules against “hateful conduct.” The Twitter message to the Catholic publication cited its policy barring harassment of others on the basis of gender or gender identity, among other characteristics. Repeated violations may lead to permanent suspension on Twitter, the note said.
Twitter has over 180 million monthly active users around the world.
The social media company did not respond to further inquiry from Catholic World Report.
In its expanded section on hateful conduct, Twitter policy says “We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”
“Misgendering” is the gender-based description of someone that the person would not himself use, while “deadnaming” is using the name of a person before he or she underwent a purported gender transition.
For Olson, the “gender ideology” he sees in Twitter’s actions has links to critical theory. A key component of this is “to fixate on supposed abuses of power taking place through language, often to a point of absurdity.”
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This “obsession with victimhood and systems of power and privilege (whether actual or not),” Olson told CNA, has led to “an Orwellian approach to language.” Citing Josef Pieper’s Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, Olson said “those who control language, or are able to change language according to ideological ends, are really working to have power over others.”
“So, a key issue is truth and how best to describe and express reality within the limits of language,” said Olson. The standards of language are also “continually shifting,” he said. “A few years ago, the tweet in question would probably have been praised for identifying Dr. Levine in such a way; more recently, it would par for the course. Now it is considered offensive or hateful.”
Olson said the description of Levine is accurate, even if it does not provide “a comprehensive explanation of Catholic teaching.” Such descriptions are necessary for Catholic publications to serve their readers, he said.
“While those who are in the middle of these battles are quite familiar with the terrain and language, there are many readers who aren’t,” he added. “Not everyone understands what a ‘transgender woman’ is. I’ve talked with more than a few folks who don’t really know what ‘transgender’ means, or maybe wonder, ‘Is a “transgender woman” a man who has become a woman or a woman who has become a man?’ It’s necessary and legitimate to communicate as clearly as possible about such things, mindful of the particular intent of the piece in question.”
The Daily Citizen, a publication of the Colorado-based evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, was also suspended on Twitter for several days after a Jan. 19 post that said in part “Dr. Levine is a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman.” The post is no longer viewable on Twitter, and appears to be described as “no longer available.”
While the Daily Citizen’s Twitter account was available for viewing as of Feb. 1, it had not posted anything since Jan. 22. Supporters of the organization protested using the hashtag “#AreWeNext”.