The Truth Regarding Milo Yiannopoulos’ Twitter Ban

milo yiannopoulos

Claim: Milo Yiannopoulos’ Twitter Ban was a cowardly action. He was unfairly targeted and it’s an infringement on his free speech.

Fact: The objections to Milo Yiannopoulos’ Twitter Ban are mostly straw man arguments that don’t address the actual reasons for his account’s suspension. Twitter is a private company (not a government/public entity) that stands to lose financially if its influential users leave. It was not Yiannopoulos’ first suspension, and this was merely the latest instance in which he had acted as a ringleader where he instigated a Twitter storm of harassment (including racist messages) against users who were not themselves engaged in a political dialogue.  He also spoofed Leslie Jones’ Tweets, which are clearly laid out as grounds for suspension in Twitter’s TOS. 

On July 18, 2016, Milo Yiannopoulos’ Twitter account was permanently suspended. Since then, the internet has been awash with complaints that don’t fully address (and that falsely make the claim that this is part of some anti-Conservative bias) the reasons for the ban, generally giving an incorrect or partial reason for the ban, and falsely make the case that the ban was unwarranted. Below are the main points to keep in mind:

  • This was not the first instance where Milo instigated a harassing Tweetstorm
  • His targets weren’t just harassed by him, but by his followers
  • Milo was also spoofing Leslie Jones Tweets and this is grounds for termination under Twitter’s policy.
  • He had been temporarily banned on several occasions
  • Twitter has it larger user base to consider
  • Twitter bans are in fact common
  • Members of groups Milo disagrees with have also been banned
  • Twitter is a private company, not a public resource

This was not the first instance where Milo instigated a harassing Tweetstorm

Most of the objections to Yiannopoulos’ ban phrase the situation as a one-off instance. “Milo Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter for harassing Leslie Jones” is simply not true. In reality, Leslie Jones was merely the latest target of these attacks. This is important to keep in mind when comparing Yiannopoulos’ Twitter activity to other Twitter users who’ve cited as examples of Twitter’s alleged lack of objectivity.


His targets weren’t just harassed by him, but by his followers

Yiannopoulos’ Twitter attacks didn’t happen in a vacuum. They results in an ensuing deluge of attacks by his followers (of which he had over 300,000). In response to Milo’s Twitter ban, Dave Rubin states something to the effect that people should be allowed to have an “exchange of ideas.” This response makes sense in the context where two parties are having a back-and-forth, and are able to respond to each other’s comments. This is an instance where the the instigator’s Tweet is resulting in a deluge of Tweets (including racist comments). It’s important to reiterate that this was not a one-off instance. The Leslie Jones incident was merely the proverbial straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

milo-leslie-jones-twitter

milo-leslie-jones-twitter-gorilla-pic

leslie-jones-twitter

milo-twitter

 

Spoof Tweets

Perhaps even more relevant: Milo was apparently spoofing Tweets (an online app, as well as basic image editing tools make this possible).  This is a direct violation of Twitter’s impersonation policy:

Impersonation is a violation of the Twitter Rules. Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter impersonation policy.

Milo's Spoofed Tweet

Note the “Delete” option. If this were real, the Delete button would only be visible for Leslie Jones, not someone logged in from a different account. This is a dead giveaway that it’s a spoof.  It’s possible that some of the racist comments made towards Leslie Jones were in response to this spoof, which users mistook as really coming from Jones.

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He had been temporarily banned on several occasions

As stated above, this was not Yiannopoulos’ first Twitter ban. He had endured several temporary Twitter bans prior to finally being permanently banned. This is important to keep in mind since the objections are generally phrased as if the permanent ban came unexpectedly from left field.

Twitter has it larger user base to consider

As a for-profit company, Twitter’s ability to generate revenue (its business model) comes from its large user base and the data they provide. Losing users and activity is not good for Twitter’s business model. This is especially important to keep in mind since Milo himself bills himself as “pro business” (as do many of his supporters).


Twitter bans are in fact common

Because Twitter bans aren’t routinely reported, Milo’s instance sees out of the ordinary. In reality these bans are quite common. Twitter reports that:

We believe that everyone should have the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. In order to protect the experience and safety of people who use Twitter, there are some limitations on the type of content and behavior that we allow. All users must adhere to the policies set forth in the Twitter Rules. Failure to do so may result in the temporary locking and/or permanent suspension of account(s).

Also:

Abusive Behavior

We believe in freedom of expression and in speaking truth to power, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up. In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Members of groups Milo disagrees with have also been banned

In order to make the case that Milo has been unfairly targeted, it’s often mentioned that other groups get away with egregious actions that go unpunished. This is an apples-to-oranges comparison since Yiannopoulos is one individual being compared to groups. Hence “Milo gets banned while ISIS continues to spout propaganda on Twitter” is a bit of a non-sequitur. ISIS accounts are routinely banned (well over 100,000 of them have been deleted), but this doesn’t stop new accounts from being created, or from existing Twitter users from joining ISIS. Hence, ISIS accounts are being targeted, but they comprise of countless users, not a single user that can be permanently banned. If Twitter were routinely banning Alt-Right Twitter users while allowing ISIS members to act with impunity, it would make for an effective complaint.

Twitter is a private company, not a public resource

It’s important to keep in mind that Twitter is a private company, not a public resource. Twitter is under no obligation to allow its server to be used for activities such as Milo’s. Not allowing someone to continually use their service to instigate harassing Tweet storms is not an infringement on anyone’s 1st Amendment rights. Yiannopoulos has not been barred from stating his opinions, he is simply not allowed to (officially) use Twitter’s services to do so. If a store owner decides that a store visitor is driving store foot traffic away by repeatedly harassing other visitors, he/she is well within his/her rights to remove the harassing visitor. This is not an infringement on the harassing visitor’s 1st Amendment rights.

Truth is stranger than fiction

Milo’s continued role as harassing “ringleader” and his spoofed “Leslie Jones Tweets” (clearly outlined as grounds for suspending an account), all of which led to racist harassment of Leslie Jones easily justifies the suspension of Yiannopoulos’ Twitter account.  The popular narrative conveniently omits these factors in order to promote the idea of an anti-conservative conspiracy.

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