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Big Tech v Our Democracy
My legal action against Eventbrite for unlawful discrimination has ramifications for us all - not least for our Parliamentary democracy
I organised a book launch for 2nd December 2022 with my co-editor Al Peters. Our book is called ‘Transpositions: a personal journey into gender criticism’. We invited men and women to send us their stories about how they came to join the debate about sex versus gender. These people would be loosely identified as ‘gender critical’ – i.e. they believe that sex is real and important and must not be overshadowed or even replaced entirely by ‘gender identity ideology’. It is not ‘hateful’ to hold this belief, as was confirmed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in June 2021 in the case of Forstater, rather it is ‘worthy of respect in a democratic society’ and thus protected by the Equality Act 2010.
I set up a page with Eventbrite UK to sell tickets for the event – we needed to raise some money to pay for the room hire and catering.
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On 27th October, Eventbrite sent me an email saying:
"We’re reaching out regarding your event listing, Launch of 'Transpositions' - personal journeys into gender criticism.
We have determined that your event is not permitted on the Eventbrite platform as it violates our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service, specifically our policy on Hateful, Dangerous, or Violent Content and Events. As a result, your event has been unpublished. Please be aware that severe or repeated violations of our guidelines may result in the suspension or termination of your Eventbrite account….
Please reply directly to this email if you have any further questions. We appreciate your understanding and thank you in advance for your cooperation."
I sent several emails in reply, asking for urgent clarification about how exactly my event had violated either the Community Guidelines or Terms of Service. We recorded the speeches at the event and put them on Youtube, if you would like to make your own mind up – links below.
My emails were ignored. However, on 2nd November one of Eventbrite’s lawyers based in California ‘reached out’ to me after reading an article I had written in The Critic.
We met for remote discussions on 3rd November and I was assured that by 7th November I would be given ‘timescales’ for a ‘second review’ of my event – the first review having confirmed it promoted violent and hateful content etc. On 16th November they confirmed they would not reinstate the event.
What I found most interesting about our talk was that a reason given for pulling the plug was the ‘duty of care’ Eventbrite owed to those attending the event. There was a real risk violent men would turn up and hurt someone. So the answer, clearly is to show these violent men that threats, violence and intimidation work! On the night no one turned up of course. It was probably a bit cold.
My solicitors made a Data Subject Access Request on my behalf and I got the response early this year. I set out some of the key documents in a substack post that I link to below.
It’s worth a look at some of the interesting comments made by Eventbrite employees, not least the level of investigation they undertook into me as an individual. They were very excited to find the reports to Wiltshire police – but apparently didn’t bother to research that any further and discover that Wiltshire police had been forced to concede they acted unlawfully in recording me.
My solicitors then sent a letter before action. My action is based on two key issues, under the Equality Act 2010 and breach of contract.
Section 29 of the Equality Act provides that a “service-provider” must not discriminate against a person ‘B’ requiring the service ,by not providing that person with the service, by termination of the provision of the service or by subjecting B to any other detriment such as harassment or victimisation.
We are relying on Forstater v CGD Europe & Others UKEAT/0105/20/JOJ (Forstater) and R (on the application of Miller) v College of Policing (2021) EWCA Civ 1926 (Miller) and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association v Scottish Event Campus Limited - where the venue had to pay out a considerable sum of money for cancelling a meeting of evangelic Christians who believed that homosexuality was a sin.
We are arguing breach of contract on the basis that para 27.2 of Eventbrite’s Terms of Service allows a party to refuse to accept to be bound by the law of the state of Delaware in the US, and therefore the law governing our contract is English law. We will argue that any definition of ‘fear’ ‘hate’ or ‘prejudice’ which was applied to my book launch, was so broad as to be entirely meaningless, thus making the contract void for uncertainty.
Eventbrite have asked for time to respond by 24th February. Interestingly, although it claims it is not subject to UK law, it wanst to take the time to respond in detail so that I understand the position on what is a ‘complex’ issue.
I don’t think its complex at all. What has happened here is that a foreign multi national company has imposed ‘community standards’ on a UK citizen in defiance of domestic laws.
I think there is a clear breach of the Equality Act here, in that my event was removed from the platform because it was decided it promoted ‘violent’ or ‘hateful’ content. Eventbrite define ‘hate’ as including ‘disparagement’ – which is incredibly wide and subjective.
Why is this important?
I assert that the behaviour of Eventbrite raises really significant issues of public interest. Platforms such as this claim to be operating as a ‘public good’ – Eventbrite relied on breach of its ‘community standards’ to remove my event. However, Evenbrite creates its own guidelines, with no public consultation or public scrutiny. The boundaries between laws created by our Parliament and efforts to impose a private organisation’s own moral code on the wider public is becoming blurred. This has serious implications for the health of our democracy
My point is simple. If Eventbrite wish to operate in the UK, it must obey UK laws. In particular it cannot ignore the will of Parliament which has made it clear via the Equality Act and the EAT decision in Forstater, that ‘gender critical’ belief is worthy of respect in a democratic society
My case also shows the dangers of political purity. I am not the only woman censored by Eventbrite
WPUK stated that as a grass roots feminist organisation they would not be taking legal action. Absolutely fair enough. I fully understand the emotional and financial consequences of Law Fare – they are considerable and not to be undertaken lightly. This is not the weapon of choice for everyone.
But I think it is a mistake to back away from this fight. The disclosure to my DSAR showed exactly what Eventbrite thinks of women who say that you cannot change sex. They don’t care if we are potentially allied with the right wing or left wing or have read sufficient academic feminist theory. We are all tarred with the same brush.
I found a redacted email in the DSAR, discussing their removal of (I assume) the WPUK event. It stated that the organisers were more ‘buttoned up’ than me – fair comment! – but that the events were ‘essentially the same’ in that they both promoted ‘trans denialism/exclusion’.
So this is I think the beating heart of what is going so very wrong. It doesn’t matter how prettily you dress it up, how much you talk about your compassion and love for trans people, how much you deny any association with ‘the right wing’ – if you have any views that biological sex is real and it matters then you can be denied goods and services on the basis that you are a bigot.
My book launch sold out. A great time was had by all and we have sold more copies than we expected. So no real harm done? Not on this individual occasion no. But the consequences if this is allowed to spread are really serious. Many US ‘Big Tech’ private companies now have effective monopolies on communication and financial services.
What are the real alternatives to PayPal, Facebook, Twitter etc etc? To be excluded from these services can have really serious impacts on individuals. And to be excluded on a wholly false basis, that our lawfully protected belief is repackaged as ‘hate and violence’ is really disturbing. This is a fundamental breach of Article 10 of the ECHR.
Further, these decisions form a vicious cycle of legitimisation for yet further discrimination. The CEO of the Conway Hall telephoned me shortly before the event. He didn’t want to cancel it but he had been getting a lot of complaints and wanted me to not mention the venue at all on social media. I complied with a heavy heart. I was grateful that the Conway Hall did not pull the event. But it was clear that Eventbrite’s decision was being used to support an argument for even more serious censorship of this event.
So I think we need to know. Are private foreign companies allowed to discriminate against women who think sex is real and it matters? If the answer to that is ‘yes’ – what are the consequences for our democracy?
I think these are really big and serious questions that transcend political or ideological affiliations. If you agree please consider supporting my action – I know money is very tight for everyone, if you can’t afford to donate or don’t want to then please do talk with others about what I have discussed today. I think it’s really important.
I will share one review of the Transpositions book – you can read it and make up your own mind. I don’t accept for one moment that the men and women who shared their stories are ‘hateful’ or part of a cult. But this is the narrative that companies like Eventbrite empower and amplify.
This book works as a great catalog of a time when certain people took leave of their critical faculties and decided that a small, marginal section of society were to blame for the problems of a traumatised generation in an increasingly insecure era.
It works as study in the pathology of hate and how easy it can be to manufacture tensions and manipulate frightened people into cult like behaviours.
I recommend this to any student of sociology and /or psychology.
Sarah Phillimore has accidentally compiled her own body of evidence against herself and those she has exploited for this dossier of paranoid fantasies are right to remain anonymous.
We are dealing with an ideology that defies reality and rationality and which fundamentally at its core, hates women. I think its vital that we are able to put aside our political differences, dial down on expectations of purity and fight this, before it really is too late.
Speeches at the ‘Transpositions’ Book launch 2 Dec 2022
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