Elon Musk Says Changes to X’s Deadnaming Policy Will Be Confined to Brazil

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Given Elon Musk’s personal stances on transgender people, X’s policies on deadnaming and pronouns unfortunately align with his own logic. But last week, after the platform was forced to make a change to those policies following a court ruling in Brazil, we also got another glimpse into how Musk is now being held to ransom by his key supporters, whom he may struggle to keep happy, while also aligning with progressive laws and expectations around the world.

As reported by Ars Technica, last April, X updated its abuse and harassment policies, which, among other notes, saw the removal of rules that explicitly ban deadnaming (i.e. calling transgender people by a former name), as well as the deliberate misgendering of trans users.

The update was widely criticized by LGBTQ+ organizations, given the potential unnecessary harm that it could cause for many users. Though those complaints largely fell on deaf ears, as Musk continued both engage with and amplify anti-trans comments.

But then last week, X quietly reinstated a significant chunk of its previous policy on this front.

As per Ars Technica:

In a section labeled “Use of Prior Names and Pronouns,” X’s updated policy confirms that X will “reduce the visibility of posts that purposefully use different pronouns to address someone other than what that person uses for themselves, or that use a previous name that someone no longer goes by as part of their transition.”

So while it’s not exactly a full return of the original policy, it does stipulate that there will be penalties for deadnaming, which had been a key point of contention when Musk and Co. updated the policy last year.

And many of the accounts that Elon regularly engages with were not happy about the change.

In response, Musk quickly jumped to action, eventually confirming that the change was due to a court judgment in Brazil, which, Musk claims, X is in the process of appealing. Musk also noted that the policy update “should not apply outside of Brazil,

So no change to X’s policies, which would have offered some level of protection for trans people. And yet, there is a literal change in the rules as written, which users could refer to for technical enforcement, at least until X clarifies the wording.

In any event, the exchange underlines the situation that X now finds itself in, with Musk beholden to his “free speech” allies, who are going to call him and X out every time any such change is implemented.

Though, eventually, X may have to enforce more rules of this type, in line with legal regulations around the world, while it’s also changes and exchanges like this that continue to spark concerns among X’s ad partners, many of whom are still staying away from the app due to Musk’s personal posts and approaches to divisive topics.

In other words, this is seemingly an untenable balance, within which Musk wants to maintain his appeal to his key supporters, while also maximizing the business opportunities for the app.

Musk’s long-held view is that X will eventually become the most popular platform in the world due to his “free speech” approach, and when it does, advertisers will have no choice but to align themselves with the app either way, because the reach potential will simply be too great.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case, with X seemingly failing to gain any users over the past year, despite Musk repeatedly looking to promote cherry-picked stats that seemingly allude to platform growth.

In November 2022, just weeks after taking over at the app, Musk claimed that X was up to 250 million daily active users, after rising by around 13 million DAU following his purchase of the company. In September 2023, in an interview at the Code Conference, X CEO Linda Yaccarino said that X has between “200 million to 250 million daily active users.

So zero user growth, in a year, despite Yaccarino also posting about “staggering” growth in conversations in the app.

Match that against Elon’s initial growth projections for the app, in which he predicted that X would have a billion users by 2024, and it does seem like the platform will have to make some concessions to Musk’s original plan in order to maximize its potential.

Which could lead to more difficult exchanges like this among Musk and his fans.

Will Elon be willing to uphold changes like this, in order to align with regulatory requirements and advertiser demands, or will he stand firm and let X continue to lose money because of his own stances, and those of his connections?

It’s difficult to see how Musk will be able to maintain both, and while he has also repeatedly noted that X will allow free speech within the laws of each region, it does seem that, if X wants to win back more ad partners, it will have to take even more action, which could upset his dedicated user base.

And with Musk’s other companies also taking a reputational hit due to him sharing his controversial opinions on X, it does seem like there will come a time, sometime soon, when Musk will need to reassess his approach.

Could that be a major turning point for the app, or will Musk maintain his current approach, in that he’ll say whatever he wants, and deal with the consequences?

With the U.S. election race heating up, it does seem like Elon is intent on highlighting concerns via his profile, and aligning X’s rules around his opinions.

But maybe, at some stage, a bigger rift could be coming as a result of these misaligned objectives.



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