On Tuesday night, in a surprising move, Twitter permanently banned conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos from using its service. Yiannopoulos, an editor for prominent conservative website Breitbart.com, has been known for making provocative statements on Twitter and elsewhere.
Twitter said the suspension was part of a wider move to block a number of user accounts for abuse and harassment after Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones on Monday drew renewed attention to the issue and announced she would quit the social media site.
Jones retweeted and shared several abusive tweets she received Monday before telling her 250,000 followers: "I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart. All this cause I did a movie. You can hate the movie but the shit I got today... wrong." Jones shared some of the racist tweets targeted toward her, many of which compared her to an ape. User YellowArmedImposter wrote, "Your Ghostbusters isn't the first to have an ape in it," which Jones shared with the comment: "I just don't understand." Jones, who is also a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live, publicly pondered over several tweets what would prompt people to "spew hate."
"I used to wonder why some celebs don't have Twitter accts now I know," she wrote in one tweet. In a separate post, she added: "Twitter I understand you got free speech I get it. But there has to be some guidelines when you let spread like that."
Among those banned Tuesday was Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been a controversial figure on the site and helped lead the abuse against Jones. Yiannopoulos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Twitter said in a statement Tuesday that it had seen an "uptick" in the number of accounts violating its abuse and harassment policies over the past 48 hours, noting it had enforced its policies either by issuing warnings or permanently suspending users. "We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree," Twitter said in the statement. "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."
“People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter,” said a Twitter official in a statement. “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 have been in the process of reviewing our hateful conduct policy to prohibit additional types of abusive behavior and allow more types of reporting, with the goal of reducing the burden on the person being targeted,” the official said. “We’ll provide more details on those changes in the coming weeks.”
According to the Hill, a Twitter spokesperson did not respond to a question about what policy violation specifically led to Yiannopoulos’s suspension.
While Yiannopoulos did not immediately respond to a Hill request for comment, told Breitbart that "this is the end for Twitter." "Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter," he said.
In a comment, Milo said “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. Where are the Twitter police when Justin Bieber’s fans cut themselves on his behalf? 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.”
He is scheduled to appear at an event linked to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Tuesday night.