UPDATE: Twitter Apparently Blocked Photo Searches for #Bisexual, So I Guess We’re All Vampires Now
You cannot capture our likeness
[UPDATE: Twitter has acknowledged the problem, and is apparently working on a fix.]
We’ve identified an error with search results for certain terms. We apologize for this. We’re working quickly to resolve & will update soon.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 5, 2017
Twitter recently updated its safety features, and it looks like the image/photo search for #bisexual was caught in the crosshairs.
According to reports on Twitter and the BBC News, the Photos tab for the bisexual hashtag is not working in multiple countries. Even updating your search settings to allow for adult and sensitive content didn’t change the lack of results. (Some countries are also reporting that #lesbian and/or #gay is unavailable, but those reports are more sporadic user-to-user, and I’ve personally been able to access both.)
However, when I search under Photos or Videos for #bisexual, I get this image:
— BiPrideUK (@BiPrideUK) November 4, 2017
There are a few theories as to why Twitter might have found itself erasing bisexuality. Bisexual people are relentlessly fetishized in porn, and so the bisexual tag may have been caught in some sort of adult or inappropriate content sweep. After all, this would hardly be the first time that LGBTQ content was erroneously labeled as “adult.” YouTube made this same homophobic judgment call back in March, when their all-ages “restricted mode” blocked all LGBTQ content. They later addressed the issue.
Twitter’s error, since it specifically focuses on photos, is almost too apt a metaphor to indulge, but allow me. Bisexual erasure is real. We’re treated like we’re going through a phase, like we’re confused, or like we’re just uncontrollably “slutty.” Our desires are fetishized in porn (Threesomes are so hot) and shamed when they’re deemed inconvenient or threatening. (Aren’t you inevitably going to cheat on me?) When we exist in film or media, our representation follows the same old patterns, and we’re almost always the tricksy villain using our sexuality to fool people.
Just as with YouTube’s decision back in March, Twitter’s screw-up is just that: a screw-up, and screw-ups inevitably happen when you’re implementing something new. I get that, and the Twitter Safety team is undeniably dealing with a metric ton of garbage that they’re trying to filter effectively. I don’t envy them, and mistakes are mostly likely to happen in that sort of environment.
However, the nature of the screw-ups we make when we’re engineering often reflect our own biases. From the soap dispensers that don’t recognize black people’s hands to the Amazon Key letting strangers into your home, engineers are mostly likely to make errors in areas where they’re guided by unconscious, inherent biases. White engineers forget racial justice issues; male engineers forget women’s perspectives. By not questioning the inclusion of #bisexual with banned tags, or by grouping it with all the other blocked tags as a “fetish” rather than a simple fact of somebody’s life, Twitter’s engineers revealed the same biases toward bisexual people that contribute to our invisibility.
And even if our soulless and mythical likenesses can never be captured by the new, weak technology of film, we’re here, folks.
(Via BBC News; image via Shutterstock)
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