With many users already displaying their preferred pronouns in their profiles, Twitter has decided to introduce a pronoun field which all users will be encouraged to fill. Robots will be required to use the it/its pronoun, with humans having to pass an “I am not a robot” captcha test before being allowed to enter their pronouns in a free text field.
“Twitter believes passionately in freedom of expression,” said a spokesperson, “and one of the most important forms of expression is to tell others what pronouns you want to be called by.”
Hovering over a Twitter handle will display that user’s pronouns and anyone found to be deliberately misgendering someone by using pronouns that do not match those set in that user’s pronoun field at the time of the tweet may have their account suspended or permanently deleted.
This is something rival platform Slack has considered and, according to this tweet, something they use internally.
We made a custom profile field for "Pronoun" that we use internally, but if you're wanting it to be visible in the hover view, you might have to get creative with the "What I Do" section. As for making a dedicated field for pronoun, that's something we'll consider!
— Slack (@SlackHQ) May 4, 2018
There have also been calls for Twitter to introduce a sexuality field, an ethnicity field, a religious affiliation field and disability checkboxes, with campaigners claiming that the rampant abuse against historically oppressed groups cannot be adequately policed when we don’t know which identity groups people belong to. Such a move would allow each Twitter user to be assigned an Intersectional Oppression Index (IOI) that could be taken into consideration when complaints are made.
“We find these suggestions very interesting and we are actively considering how they might be actioned, which would of course need to include some form of verification,” the spokesperson (they/them) said. “The problem we have in assessing complaints is that they often come down to one person against another. An IOI would certainly be helpful in determining algorithmically which was the oppressor and which was the oppressed party.”
This would work by comparing the IOIs of the two parties in the dispute and would decide in favour of the party with the higher oppression index. Anyone failing to fill in their pronoun field and the other identity fields would have an IOI of zero.