Do social networks like Twitter have the right to ban users they consider abusive? Do publishers?
Twitter ban of right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos again brings up the issue of free speech, freedom of the press, and the right to not be trolled online
Twitter did it again, it banned Milo Yiannopoulos, the Greek born British journalist, known for his libertarian views, involvement in Gamergate, and his uncanny ability to be banned from using Twitter.
The Twitter hashtag #FreeMilo is now trending as conservatives accuse Twitter of violating free speech principals, and a few are calling for CEO Jack Dorsey’s resignation.
#FreeMilo leftist nazi are in panic mode!
— All (@LegalForTrump) July 20, 2016
Yiannopoulos had recently authored a review of the new Ghostbusters movie for Breitbart which concentrated on politics and women bashing, but little on filmmaking:
In this film, by contrast, the enemy is all men, while the government ends up playing dad. Every man in the movie is a combination of malevolent and moronic. The chick ‘busters shame the mayor so much they end up getting government funding at the end. Like all feminists, they can only survive by sucking on the teat of Big Government.
He then goes on a tirade against the film’s female characters, leveling particularly cruel remarks against Leslie Jones who plays Patty:
“Abigail is repellant and fat. Holtzmann is a clownish, lip-syncing drag queen. Erin is a forgettable, low-rent Jennifer Aniston clone. Patty is a two dimensional racist stereotype by even the most forgiving measure.”
“Patty is the worst of the lot. The actress is spectacularly unappealing, even relative to the rest of the odious cast. But it’s her flat-as-a-pancake black stylings that ought to have irritated the SJWs**. I don’t get offended by such things, but they should.”
But his views of the film was not what got him banned again from Twitter. Instead it was participation in a relentless string of trolling comments against Leslie Jones who is in the unfortunate position of being both black and a woman in a nation where 40 percent of the population appear to not respect the rights of either.
Yiannopoulos went on Breitbart to protest his banning:
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.
This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter.
Twitter, of course, disagrees:
“People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter,” the company said 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. Over the past 48 hours in particular, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of accounts violating these policies and have taken enforcement actions against these accounts, ranging from warnings that also require the deletion of Tweets violating our policies to permanent suspension.”
Commenting and use of social media are areas where many in the media have firm views: they should remain open and unmoderated. It is generally the first commandment of the “Digital First” crowd – who are, I needn’t remind you, generally the least digitally progressive of those in the publishing industry, nor terribly successful as publishers, in general.
Also, I think this observation is right:
Twitter’s approach currently favors assholes by default, by giving targets of unwanted speech no outlet except quitting Twitter.
— Glenn Fleishman (@GlennF) July 20, 2016
I have no opinion of the banning myself as I haven’t read any of the tweets Yiannopoulos is said to have written. I also have no opinion of the new Ghostbusters movie or the actress who stars.
But I do have a strong opinion about the rights of publishers. So, let me respond to all this from a conservative point of view:
Get off my fucking lawn!
Publishers have the right to determine who can and cannot comment on their websites, and whether comments will be allowed at all. Social networks have that same right. And if conservatives do not recognize that right, well, are they really conservatives at all? What happened to the rights of property owners?
It bothers me to no end to see journalists proclaim the absolute right of readers to comment, as if the first amendment guarantees the right of everyone to publish content on outlets they do not own. That is not what freedom of speech is about. If it is, then “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” is contradictory.
If I submit a letter to the editor, must the editor publish it? Of course, not. So why must an editor, by some unwritten rule, be force to publish the comments of all readers?
The risk the publisher has in selectively publishing or not publishing comments is the loss of business – a real risk. That is why news outlets and social networks try to stay as open as possible.
But many news organizations have become gathering spots for trolls, right-wing groups – and yes, those groups on the left, as well – that may be spreading hate and/or violence. Should they be banned?
Not my call. That is the call of the publisher. And I am more upset by those who want to take away that right because they see the actions of a publisher as somehow a violation of their rights. If Milo Yiannopoulos does not agree with Twitter’s policy he should stay the fuck off of Twitter. Not cry about it like a spoiled child.
His remark that this “This is the end for Twitter” may be the stupidest comment of the year. Twitter has so many problems trying to monetize its audience that the reaction to banning Yiannopoulos is the least of its worries. It banned Yiannopoulos because he is a ridiculous man who says ridiculous things in order to get some attention and have a career.
Twitter has banned Yiannopoulos. Fine, may I suggest that he should get a MySpace account, I understand they could use some new customers.
** Social Justice Warriors in urban slang.
Later: Here is an amazing find from Charles Arthur, formerly The Guardian’s Technology editor:
“I have in the past argued for verified identities on social networks, so those responsible for abuse and persecution of public figures and the vulnerable might be held accountable for their actions. That seems redundant when trolls are now so brazen they don’t care about disapproving words from their loved ones back inside Facebook when they leave furious missives using that social network’s commenting system elsewhere on the internet.”
Well said. Who said it? Milo Yiannopoulos.