In an attempt to crack down on online targeted abuses, Twitter on Tuesday permanently banned conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos — a day after he called on his followers to attack actress Leslie Jones with racist tweets. Yiannopoulos, however, hit back at the microblogging site accusing it of curbing free speech and warning that “this is the end for Twitter.”
The ban means the self-proclaimed “supervillain of the internet” will not be allowed to interact on Twitter in any way possible, including suspension of new accounts he creates. The Greek-born British journalist had 338,000 Twitter followers and is reported to be one of the main inciters of online hate and abuse against Jones, who starred in the recently released “Ghostbusters” movie, a remake of the popular 1984 film. The actors of the latest release received backlash on social media following the revelation that the new “Ghostbusters” will feature an all-female cast.
In his tweets, Yiannopoulos called Jones “barely literate” and said her work was “terrible.” The 48-year-old black actress-comedian was bombarded with racial slurs and sexist tweets from his followers. At one point, she was compared to apes, including Harambe — the male gorilla shot dead at a Cincinnati zoo in May. Jones posted screenshots of the abusive tweets on her account before announcing her decision to quit Twitter “with tears and sad heart.” She also blamed Twitter for not imposing guidelines for offensive posts.
In a statement Tuesday, Twitter said: “People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”
“We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree. We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it’s happening and prevent repeat offenders,” Twitter added.
However, Yiannopoulos reacted harshly to his Twitter ban, saying: “With the cowardly suspension of my account, Twitter has confirmed itself as a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives.”
“Twitter is holding me responsible for the actions of fans and trolls using the special pretzel logic of the left … Like all acts of the totalitarian regressive left, this will blow up in their faces, netting me more adoring fans. We’re winning the culture war, and Twitter just shot themselves in the foot. This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter,” Yiannopoulos said.
Meanwhile, #FreeMilo, in Yiannopoulos’ defence, began trending on Twitter.
The 32-year-old serves as a technology editor at conservative news site Breitbart. Known for his blunt and offensive posts on social media, Yiannopoulos has been warned by Twitter several times in the past for violating the company’s terms of service. In June, he was banned briefly by the microblogging site for criticizing Islam following the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando. In January, Twitter removed the verification checkmark from his account without giving any reason.