#bierasure

Twitter literally makes it impossible to deliberately see bisexuals

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Within the last few days, Twitter has decided to double down on being the literal worst by picking a few words and phrases for which you can no longer search for images.

The new ban vanishes: bisexual, bisexuality, sexuality, queer, transexual, sex, & butt. Related unaffected terms include: lesbian, gay, homosexual, heterosexual, trans, intersex, asexual, and — perplexingly — butts. For context, here are some other, totally unrelated terms that you can still find pictures of without any trouble on genuine Free Speech™ Internet website Twitter dot com: white pride, gamergate, aryan nation, heil hitler, swastika, and hey baby give us a smile.

Twitter hasn’t published a list of the newly-banned image search terms. Nor have they issued a statement about why they decided to take the metaphor of bi invisibility and make it a literal reality on their raging garbage fire of a website. Twitter’s “safety calendar” blog post indicates that they’re currently working on updating their rules around (among other topics):

  • violent groups
  • hateful imagery and hate symbols
  • unwanted sexual advances
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Pornhub report from February 26, 2016

Given the terms that made it — and didn’t make it — onto the no-image-search list, it’s really hard to imagine how Twitter could possibly have done a worse job at this. Unless someone has been very badly informed somewhere down the line, bisexuality is neither a violent group nor a hate symbol. Even if Twitter were foolishly trying to protect readers’ sensitive eyes from sexual imagery, this set of prohibited image search terms doesn’t make any sense. And besides: this change doesn’t affect what appears in your feed, it prevents you from searching for images related to terms that you specifically select.

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Screenshot from Twitter, logged in. Taken November 5 2017.

There doesn’t seem to be any way to disable this new image-search blacklist. The search results page includes the misleading suggestion that “You may have mistyped your term or your search setting could be protecting you from some potentially sensitive content.”. There doesn’t seem to be any way to disable this new image-search blacklist. The search results page includes the misleading suggestion that “You may have mistyped your term or your search setting could be protecting you from some potentially sensitive content.”.However, the sensitive content checkbox has no effect on the results. The entire interface for this blacklist is deceptive. First: it tells the reader that there are no results — not that results have been withheld or blocked, but that none exist. Then it blames the user, suggesting that they somehow opted to make bisexuals invisible and — worse, directly them towards a setting which has absolutely no effect on the situation.

That Twitter has assigned this second-class status to bisexuality but not heterosexuality or homosexual orientations is just the latest slight in bisexuality’s long history of marginalization and erasure. Despite being a slightly more common identity in US adults, bisexuality is disproportionately not represented in media, even when monosexual gay and lesbian identities and relationships gain increasing visibility.

We may never know why Twitter decided to make bisexuals invisible while leaving hate groups and their imagery untouched. We may never understand the logic which bans pictures labeled “butt” but not those labeled “butts”. Perhaps this ban is the result of a mistake, but it’s not an innocent one — Twitter is responsible for the consequences whether they’re deliberately discriminating against a doubly-marginalized identity or accidentally just lol wtf ship-it at 4:55pm on Friday.

I know you’re looking for some of the excellent images that you used to be able to find on the excellent #bisexualfacts hashtag. Since Twitter is determined to make bisexuals live in the shadows, perhaps you can get your pink/lavender/blue fix on Tumblr instead?

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