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Comment: Why I’m not shocked at Twitter’s bi-erasure

Lewis Oakley November 5, 2017

This weekend Twitter was found to be censoring bisexuality.

Users reported the popular hashtags #bisexual and #bisexuality are no longer displaying pictures or videos around the world.

It’s not the first time Twitter has been accused of censoring the wrong voices, most recently Rose McGowan found herself on the wrong side of Twitter’s silencing hands. So to the gay men reading this thinking ‘ugh what’s the problem, there are more important things going on’ don’t be surprised if five years from now if it’s #gay that’s not throwing up any results.

Some might ask if this just an algorithm error or an intentional decision, whilst only those in Twitter HQ will know for sure, we can look at other elements to assess Twitter’s attitude to bi people. One thing that probably only bisexual activists have noticed is that Twitter also fails to verify many bisexual people and groups on Twitter.

I remember reading a thread not too long ago about how Twitter doesn’t like to verify bisexuals. I put it to the test a few times and found that these claims were accurate. I’ve appeared in two documentaries, conducted countless radio and TV interviews, have written extensively on the subject of bisexuality and even came runner-up for PinkNews Campaigner of the Year. That still wasn’t enough for Twitter to verify my account, meanwhile anyone so much as writing a blog post about being gay can expect that blue tick before they even push the upload button.

It doesn’t bother me from a ‘I need validation from Twitter’ point of view but it does worry me from a ‘people use social media to find voices to talk on subjects’ point of view.

From working in media I know journalists struggle to find bisexuals willing to comment on issues, with Twitter not verifying bisexuals happy to discuss the topic in the same way they do other sexualities I dread to think how many times journalists have dropped a bisexual story because they couldn’t find anyone to interview.

Twitter erasing bisexuals is problematic because at this stage in bi history it’s really one of the only tools we have. There are no mainstream bisexual magazines for us to discuss our issues in. There are no bisexual venues for us to meet one another and discuss our issues. There are no bisexual apps to connects us and despite being one of the most prominent bi activists I still haven’t been in a room with ten other bisexuals my age.

It’s a struggle for all bisexuals to meet other bi people and be able to talk to people having the same experience as them. It’s hard to share stories, find solutions and develop a sense of collective identity.

Twitter, particularly in recent times had become a place for bisexuals to connect regardless of where they are in the world. It’s helped us band together and tackle the unique issues we face and helped pop stereotypes.

It’s helped us show those struggling to come out examples of happy bisexuals in a world where so few have bisexual friends to turn too for advice. With a lack of good bi representation in the media, it’s been able to allow everyday normal bisexuals to represent themselves.

I actually suspect that this won’t come as a big shock to some bisexuals. We’ve grown used to organisations that claim to be the good guys, offering freedom and equality to be a disappointment when it comes to bisexuality.

Lewis Oakley
Photos © Chris Jepson

All too often even the most progressive people’s version of equality doesn’t really include a better deal for bisexuals. Even the LGBT itself is seen through rolled eyes by bisexuals, with reports finding that it’s the most common place to find biphobia and that LGBT groups only spend around 1% of their annual funding on bisexuality.

This issue also brings up the topic of censoring in general and something I’ve been warning people about for a while. If we are happy to have views we don’t like censored, can we really be annoyed when they come to censor ours?

I could write for hours on the pros and cons of censorship but ultimately as long as people aren’t advocating physical violence or launching an online bullying campaign they should be able to have their voice out there.

I’d like to see Twitter, not just apologies and undo the ban but to ask themselves what they can do to amplify the voices of bisexual people.

As with all comment this does not necessarily reflect the views of PinkNews.

Lewis Oakley is a bisexual activist. He tweets @lewyoaks and more of his articles can be read here.

More: comment, lewis oakley, Twitter

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