Milo Yiannopoulos, the tech editor at conservative news site Breitbart and a pretty notorious internet troll, has been suspended from Twitter for the final time. He’s now banned for good for repeatedly abusing other users, the company confirmed Tuesday.
Yiannopoulos crossed the line Monday when he went after actress Leslie Jones on the microblogging site. Jones was harassed and taunted by users, many of them sending her racist images and slurs. She ultimately signed off “with tears and a very sad heart” after publicly pleading with Twitter to intervene.
Yiannopoulos, who had 338,000 followers and a Twitter bio that called him “The most fabulous supervillain on the internet,” was one of the main instigators. He tweeted that Jones was “barely literate” and also referred to her as a man.
The permanent ban means that Twitter will essentially keep Yiannopoulos off its network in any way possible, including finding and suspended any new accounts he creates. It’s the same punishment Twitter has handed down to other repeat trolls, like rapper Azealia Banks and Gotnews founder Chuck Johnson.
Here’s a lengthy statement a Twitter spokesperson shared with Recode. It doesn’t address Yiannopoulos specifically, but says the company is exploring changes to its “hateful conduct policy”:
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. 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.
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. 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. We’ll provide more details on those changes in the coming weeks.
Getting Yiannopoulos off Twitter is a step in the right direction. But the issue, of course, is that Twitter is full of people like him, most of whom are much less known or completely anonymous.
What happened to Jones is not an isolated incident. It’s getting attention because Jones is famous — Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even reached out to her directly last night in an apparent effort to help — but abuse is clearly still a problem on Twitter and the company has been struggling for years to fix it. Having these scenarios play out anywhere on Twitter, especially in the public eye, is not good business.
So, yes, banning Yiannopoulos is a small victory. But it came at a terrible price.