Transgender Twitter users aren't here for the platform's gendered assumptions. And they sure aren't hesitating to make that known.
Here's the deal: Twitter a new set of tools on May 17 which allow users to see and control the data advertisers use to target ads on the social media platform. While the move was a clear effort to increase transparency and trust between users and the social media machine, the actual data Twitter has collected is giving many users pause.
Notably, many trans and gender-nonconforming users are troubled that Twitter has been guessing the gender of users based on the gender most strongly associated with a user's "profile and activity."
Though it's not clear what portions of a user's profile or activity contribute to a gender guess, many have drawn the conclusion that Twitter must rely on some pretty bogus gender stereotypes to decipher gender. And, as we all know, stereotypes can often be wrong.
While it may be funny non-trans users to see that the mysterious algorithm got their gender vastly wrong, trans and gender-nonconforming Twitter users are speaking out about how assuming gender can be harmful. For some of these users, the algorithm picked their sex assigned at birth, not their actual gender identity. And that can be incredibly invalidating, hurtful, and angering.
Unsurprisingly Twitter's new gender algorithm ignores tweeting about being trans all the time (deleted and reposted b/c oops personal info) http://pic.twitter.com/uknVh0fqFM
— Logan (@thekirwin) May 19, 2017
Oh HEY it turns out automatically assigning a gender to your twitter users for analytics is garbage for trans people. http://pic.twitter.com/07oPF1RhN2
— natalieClayton! (@ScarletCatalie) May 18, 2017
Twitter does allow users to edit their assumed gender by selecting male, female, or writing in a gender identity outside the binary. But that's only possible after you reckon with the gender chosen for you.
@exodusenby My gender on twitter dot com is now "fuck you" in the lil add gender box ?
— Basic Trans Boy? (@LocalBTB) May 19, 2017
Tools for guessing gender aren't singular to Twitter. Other tech giants, like , assume the gender of users based on their activity to better target ads and content. But given the growing ability to express a spectrum of gender identities in society, the model needs some serious updating — or phasing out.
Mashable has reached out to Twitter for comment, and we will update this post if we hear back.