WordPress’s suspension of Gender Identity Watch

[Update: WordPress has relented and sent us the full complement of media files for Gender Identity Watch, so we’ll be able to fully restore the site without needing to take further legal action. Thank you to everyone for your help and willingness to support women’s speech!

We’ll continue to use all donations to resist the erasure of the rights of women and girls. We’ll provide further updates to our supporters on our next steps soon.]

This October, WoLF announced that we would be taking over maintenance of the site Gender Identity Watch, a valuable archive of public information regarding the history of the online and policy debates on gender identity activism. A WoLF member had the site transferred to her WordPress account to manage it on our behalf.

On Friday, November 16, 2018, WordPress notified our member that Gender Identity Watch, her WordPress account, and an unrelated site connected to her account, had been suspended for “malicious publication of private details related to gender identity, including former names.” There was no prior notice given.

Suspension notice from WordPress

We learned later that day that GenderTrender, and several other feminist blogs, had suffered the same fate, based on the selective prosecution of a recent change to WordPress’s terms of service. As noted in GallusMag’s post regarding the suspension of GenderTrender:

“There are over 36,000 blogs on Automattic/Wordpress.com that refer to the individual many know as Bruce Jenner. According to the new, unannounced TOS, these blogs are committing an act of malicious publication of Jenner’s private information and are subject to immediate removal from the platform without warning.

To be clear: As of November 13, 2018, the former life of any individual who now declares themselves transgender can never be referred to using materials which reveal the name they formerly used, even if it is their legal name, the name they used last week, or the name by which they are commonly known. For example, quoting news sources which identified serial killer “Donna Perry” by his former name Douglas Perry has become an act of “malicious publication” according to Automattic/Wordpress.com which will result in sudden removal of the blog (and any other unrelated blogs by the same author) from the platform, without prior notification or opportunity for appeal, even if that post was made prior to the unannounced changes to the TOS.”

By the next day, it had become clear to all of us that, in spite of offering to allow us to download our content, WordPress had no intention of allowing us any access to our media files. The interfaces they directed us to work only if the blog is still live, and don’t allow the transfer of media files from suspended sites. Perhaps this is an oversight, but it isn’t our oversight, and it shouldn’t prevent WordPress from keeping their word to us.

Years worth of screenshots, PDFs, and related data files, are now threatened with imminent deletion. All of this information, to our knowledge, was originally part of the public domain, even if it’s no longer available online anywhere besides the reporting archives of feminist blogs.

No evidence has been provided that so much as a single post on any of these feminist sites contained any incitement to violence or other criminal activity, or in any way constituted speech not protected under First Amendment rights. Neither had WordPress formerly represented itself as a platform with a political agenda, nor one where the opinions of its employees would be imposed arbitrarily and without notice on longstanding customers.

Formal notice sent to WordPress regarding access to media files

Thanks to the generosity of Cathy Brennan, we were able to secure legal services to formally request that WordPress follow through on their claim that we would be allowed to download our content.

We hope that WordPress will do the right thing, for all parties affected, and make good on their representations to their customers that they will allow the export of our content if they no longer wish to host our sites.

Sincerely,

The WoLF Board