Frequently Asked Questions
The Atlantic magazine’s July/August 2018 cover story by Jesse Singal on transgender youth and the “ex-trans” movement.
In 2003, I helped lead a community-wide response to the exploitation of transgender people in academia. That project became a blueprint for how to counteract biased networks of influence across institutions, in that case sexology, journalism, and government.
In 2018, Data & Society published a similar analysis of an Alternative Influence Network on YouTube.
Also in 2018, a similar network self-named the Intellectual Dark Web emerged. Many of the key people promoting biased views on trans people were included, and they overlap with the Data & Society findings.
In all three cases, these networks engage in “logrolling,” supporting each other publicly and privately, both professionally and personally. Recent technology has made it easier to represent these complex relationships visually.Last updated:
That’s the problem. Unless you are deeply familiar with the issues, it’s not apparent.
It’s one of the most disgraceful moments in American journalism this century, and I intend to make it the canonical case report of biased transgender coverage studied in journalism schools.
The real problem goes much deeper than one article, which is what The Transphobia Project hopes to reveal.Last updated:
It’s hard to say, since it’s a secret! For those who don’t know, in 2018 Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he wants to build a journalist rating system, in response to the profound bias in how journalists cover electric and autonomous vehicles compared to legacy vehicles.
As I understand it, the Pravda project that Elon Musk envisions is far more complex. I’m keeping the focus narrow for this proof of concept. I do hope it will be scalable and applicable to other kinds of bias. If elements of this could be helpful to any other media bias project, I’d be very happy!
The other key difference: The Transphobia Project is a much clearer example of asymmetric information warfare, where the people with institutional power can present themselves as renegades by supporting prevailing biased viewpoints about trans people.Last updated:
Transphobia literally means “fear or hatred of trans people,” but it’s also used as an umbrella term for a wide range of anti-transgender beliefs and practices. Scientist and author Julia Serano has outlined some forms of anti-trans bias that fall under that umbrella.
Trans-antagonistic: “fundamentally opposed to transgender people for specific moral, political, and/or theoretical reasons.”
Trans-suspicious: generally tolerant of trans people, but “routinely questions (and sometimes actively works to undermine) transgender perspectives and politics.”
Trans-unaware: “uninformed (or under-informed) about transgender people and experiences.”
The Transphobia Project isn’t really about fear and hatred; it’s about systemic bias.Last updated:
Bias means liking one idea more than others. Journalists and editors are not supposed to have bias. Systemic bias is when bias permeates a system. This project examines how systemic anti-trans bias permeates socially-credentialed media outlets.
Some scholars propose thinking about bias as a disease. Since trans people are always presented as the diseased ones, let’s turn the tables. Trans-suspicious writers like Jesse Singal and Alice Dreger are just vectors of the disease. The real problem is the stagnant ponds where they thrive, like The Atlantic under Jeffrey Goldberg and the elite media backchannels that don’t allow trans journalists in.Last updated:
The point of this project is to measure influence and connections. I am trying to do that in a way that has clear rules applied evenly, where users can review the data used.
This is also a proof of concept. I hope that others will be able to improve on this. The feedback I have received from others has already improved it.
Also, the project is intended to show bias, which goes both ways. If someone consistently produces work that is biased toward pro-trans views, that will be reflected, too.Last updated:
This is where networks come in. That’s all I can say for now!Last updated:
It is permeated with a trans-suspicious ideology about trans people. For instance, the original headline was “When a Child Says She’s Trans.” That title reflects the non-affirmative model of care for trans youth that the article promotes. It misgenders the trans child. It was later changed when people pointed out the bias, but the same bias still permeates the whole piece.
Trans-antagonistic networks always leap on trans-suspicious work like that. It is already cited in legislation by conservative lawmaking networks as an “authority” for why transgender rights should be rolled back. Trans journalist networks and activist networks had warned the editors about the likelihood of this bias prior to publication. The network of Atlantic employees responsible for the piece ignored or were not made aware of those warnings.
Then it emerged that in elite professional backchannels, journalists were deliberately excluding trans journalists from participating in discussions about trans coverage in journalism.
That’s when I decided to put ten years of my life against the systematic exclusion of trans people in elite media circles. This Kickstarter announcement marks the end of year one.Last updated:
The film industry is having a similar reckoning about systemic bias and exclusion. It’s time that elite media addressed bias involving trans topics and journalists.
As an example, The Atlantic has been in business over 160 years. How many full-time employees in that time have identified as trans?
Editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s disastrous recent interview demonstrates that The Atlantic has serious problems internally, not just on trans issues. Management needs to take a hard look at what’s going on there in terms of bias.
Thanks to everyone who has volunteered to help! There are a lot of recent developments that may change the specific technical aspects of the project backend. My goal is to allow anyone to make useful contributions to the code and data.Last updated:
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