Apparently, you can be too annoying for Twitter.
Tuesday night, that social network
Yiannopoulos’s initial tweet was not racist, just insulting. The conservative website Breitbart News mocked Jones for voicing her irritation at complaints about her performance in the female-led remake of the movie “Ghostbusters”:
The ensuing hate mail compared Jones to a gorilla and included racist tweets from fake accounts impersonating her, among other hateful messages the “Saturday Night Live” cast member began retweeting to publicize the problem.
After days of onlookers demanding that Twitter Do Something About This, the service sent Yiannopoulos a form e-mail — reproduced in
Who is this guy, anyway?
The polite way to describe Yiannopoulos is “provocateur,” but “professional jerk” might be a more accurate label. He has a long history of insulting the character of opponents while complaining that the real problem is the politically-correct oppression of men.
His sneering dismissal of complaints about inadequate female representation at tech conferences three years ago ran under the headline
His take on
(Yiannopoulos did allow that the deluges of death threats received by feminist critics of gamer culture were “admittedly feverish” and “ungallant.”)
Yiannopoulos’s Twitter presence did not depart from that pattern of trolling, as I saw in my occasional checks of his profile. But being a jerk doesn’t break Twitter’s terms of service.
Twitter took the novel step of
Now Twitter (
What are the rules here?
In that post at Breitbart, Yiannopoulos denounced the “the cowardly suspension of my account” as an act of “the totalitarian regressive left” that left Twitter “a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists.”
In an e-mail, Yiannopoulos ruled out returning to Twitter under another name (“I want my account back”) and accepted Twitter’s right to police its own property. Twitter’s not the government, so he’s not going to complain about his First Amendment rights being violated.
“They’re entitled to make terrible decisions,” he wrote.
But he decried being blamed for things other people said. “I am not responsible for the actions of millions of other people on social media,” he said. “It’s ridiculous to suggest I should police the language of other people.”
Did Twitter boot all the people who took to their keyboards to tweet racist bile at Jones? That’s unclear, too.
Policy versus product
Three critics of Twitter’s approach to harassment had no use for Yiannopoulos but agreed that the rules are unevenly enforced.
Michelle Ferrier, an associate dean at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication and founder of the anti-harassment project
A Twitter publicist sent a statement noting the company would “prohibit additional types of abusive behavior and allow more types of reporting, with the goal of reducing the burden on the person being targeted.”
Soraya Chemaly, director of the
“It’s not a systemic fix, it’s not a product fix, it’s an interpretation of policy that is not itself clear to people,” she said.
As Chemaly and others said during
A social-network design that continues to enable anti-social behavior is a gun that can point at anybody, not just the celebrities that Twitter needs to keep growing its audience.