Twitter Versus Freedom of Speech

Madison Dibble

On January 8, Milo Yiannopoulos, a senior editor for Breitbart, had his Twitter verification stripped from his account. This simple checkmark signifies that an account is the official account of an individual with enough recognition to warrant a verification and avoid impersonation. While this may seem petty, the removal of Yiannopoulos’s verification illuminated a serious problem of censorship and blatant discrimination on behalf of Twitter.

There is no doubt that Yiannopoulos’s verification removal is due to his strong conservative views. Yiannopoulos has made his mark on conservative commentary through his honest thoughts on feminism and social justice warriors, among other issues. As a gay man who hails from Great Brittan, Yiannopoulos has original insight on conservative values that directly destroy his stereotypes. A man with this background and conservative ideologies is a threat to any liberal who would try to frame conservatives as elderly, homophobic men.

Yiannopoulos’ career has been growing rapidly over the past year. He writes and edits for elite media outlets and his Twitter account, @NERO, is rapidly approaching 150,000 followers. With these credentials, there is no reason that Yiannopoulos has not earned a verification. To put this in perspective, Ben Carson’s bus (@healerhauler) is verified. It is a bus and it only has 7,000 followers. The line to impersonate Ben Carson’s bus is much shorter than that of a top conservative commentator, but that didn’t stop Twitter from removing Yiannopoulos’ verification.

In a message to Yiannopoulos, Twitter stated, “Due to recent violations of the Twitter Rules, the verified badge has been removed from our account.” Twitter failed to state the exact rule that Yiannopoulos had broken. An executive from Twitter—who insisted that he was not speaking for the company—stated that Yiannopoulos called for harassment of individuals, which is a violation of one of Twitter’s rules. The rule in question states: “You may not incite or engage in targeted abuse or harassment of others.” The tweet in question stated: “You deserve to be harassed, you social justice loser.”

Taken out of context, Yiannopoulos’s tweet may seem harsh, but it was directed jokingly at another conservative on Twitter, and that is not the point. The point is that Twitter knowingly attacked a conservative account. By removing his certification badge, Twitter has made it harder for people to find the official account and opened Yiannopoulos up to fraudulent accounts. In a time when social media is one of the most important information platforms, Twitter has shown that there will be censorship of content and ideals.

While Twitter may be able to do what they want as far as Yiannopoulos’s account goes, they have not been successful silencing him. His @Nero account has gained thousands of followers, he has been on the cover of multiple media outlets, and he has started a discussion about the silencing of conservatives on social media. Along with this, Twitter’s stock has been plummeting ever since. Clearly, the people have decided that censorship of anyone is a serious problem for everyone.

Milo Yiannopoulos will be speaking on censorship and feminism at the University of Minnesota on February 17th.