Life can be cruel sometimes. Journalist Milo Yiannopoulos was last night hit with the devastating news that, due to breaking the rules, his account had been unverified and his blue tick had been removed.
I've been sat on the naughty table! pic.twitter.com/2ppJ3X4J62-- Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) January 8, 2016
In a step of unprecedented tastelessness, Milo's fans then co-opted a phrase that was used to pay tribute to the victims of a terrorist attack, and got #JeSuisMilo trending globally.
If you haven't heard of Milo, he's kind of like Katie Hopkins except he's never come second on Celebrity Big Brother. He posts insightful tweets like this, thinks feminists are 'bullies', and was an advocate for GamerGate, a shining example of humanity's capacity for being really shit sometimes.
It's perhaps an understatement to say he's not a huge fan of feminists. Just two days ago he shared this:
He's basically a professional troll. In the words of Liam Neeson, he does this for a living.
Twitter states the purpose of a verified account is to 'establish the authenticity of key individuals and brands on Twitter'. They haven't explained their reasoning behind unverifying Milo's account, but Milo himself is even more paranoid than the Labour party right now that there is a conspiracy to bring him down.
I have a feeling that Twitter is gearing up to purge conservatives. Unverifying me is the first step toward a permanent ban.-- Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) January 8, 2016
This is a clear message to anyone who believes in free speech: we're not wanted on Twitter. Time to start planning for the future.-- Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) January 8, 2016
Let's get one thing straight. This is not a freedom of speech issue. Milo still has a Twitter account, which he is still able to use to tweet to his 134,000 followers - which he has been doing, continuously, mostly just with photos of his own face.
So, since his claims that he's being censored are disingenuous, one can only assume that Milo's tantrum is because losing his blue badge feels like the loss of a status symbol. If he no longer has the blue tick, he is no longer seen as a key individual on Twitter. If he no longer has the blue tick, how do we know Milo Yiannopoulos really EXISTS? (Unfortunately, he does.)
For a man who has enjoyed the privilege of a large platform to be sent a clear message that his behaviour is unacceptable, I'm sure it feels pretty disorientating.
But if, as Milo believes, he has been unverified for his comments online, this is a victory for anyone who has watched social media descend into a cesspit of vulgar misogyny and savage provocation. It's a hugely positive step towards dealing with online trolls by making a conscious decision to refuse to legitimise them.
Social media is at its best when people engage in lively debate, share cool stuff, utilize it as a way to campaign on things they are passionate about, and make each other laugh. It's not great when it's used to harass individuals, stir up mobs, or spread hate.
Sadly, it's become a scary place to be a woman, but elsewhere steps are beginning to be taken to crack down on this behaviour. Labour's recent Reclaim the Internet campaign acknowledged that it wouldn't be okay for men to publicly threaten women all day every day in real life, so this must be stopped on the internet. I'm so happy to see Twitter is recognising this too.
I'll admit, I hesitated to write this blog, because I knew that Milo and his friends would come after me online. But then again, I'm sure they'd hate to prove me right.
I'm off to make a cup of tea before they pile in. Fortunately one of the privileges of having a verified account is that you can filter out tweets from people who don't have a blue tick.Suggest a correction