Twitter Lops Off Verified Troll’s Tick In Online Harassment Crackdown

Amid a crackdown on harassment, Twitter has removed the blue verification tick from deliberately provocative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos – self-described supervillian of the internet who was one of the loudest supporters of GamerGate – for apparently breaching its newly updated guidelines around online conduct.

Until last Friday, Milo’s Twitter account was verified with a little blue tick, a step Twitter makes to confirm that highly sought-after accounts (celebrities, politicians, media organisations, journalists, sports stars, religious leaders, etc) are who they say they are, and not an impersonator. 

But, now, just six months after the Breitbart editor acquired the blue tick, he’s been sin-binned. Milo himself posted the following message to Twitter confirming he’s no longer in the verified leagues.

The thing is, nobody seems to know exactly why he’s been unverified, which raises some fairly big questions on free speech, namely: what exactly caused him to be unverified, and why wasn’t he banned?

Twitter updated their rules in the late, late days of December 2015 to include a more extensive section on harassment and hateful conduct. 
Users must now not “promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease,” or risk being banned.
“The updated language emphasises that Twitter will not tolerate behaviour intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice,” director of Trust and Safety Megan Cristina wrote in a blog post announcing the updates. “As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs – but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse.”
And, as part of the verification feature, Twitter states that it retains the right to ‘unverified’ an account if they breach the code of conduct, although this appears to be the first time they’ve done so to a high profile media personality.
Twitter has a policy of not commenting on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons, and they’re sticking to it. However, a top Twitter exec – who stressed he was *not* speaking for the company – told BuzzFeed News that it might have been the below tweet (which, for the record, Milo has said was a “joke between friends”):

Milo himself has no idea why, specifically, he’s been unverification, although it doesn’t take a lot of scrolling through his Twitter to get that inflammatory remarks are kinda his thing.

When it comes to violating Twitter’s conduct, Milo says that “of course I am not guilty”:

“Twitter refuses to tell me or anyone else why they took my verified badge away,” he said in a statement to Recode. “They told Buzzfeed it was not down to the little stunt I did over Christmas, when I called myself “Social Justice Editor at Buzzfeed“, but instead for something I said. But they won’t tell me what it was. Twitter suspends users all the time but when they do it to someone well-known, it is always a political conservative.

“The 140,000 people who follow me – and, frankly, the rest of Twitter’s users too – deserve an explanation. If Twitter has decided to make partisan political editorial decisions, that’s their prerogative. But they must be honest with the public about it. Otherwise they risk damaging their key users’ reputations with “unverifications” and suspicions that give the false impression of harassment, abuse or some other kind of bad behaviour, of which of course I am not guilty.”

Meanwhile, #JeSuisMilo began trending, because of course it bloody well did.

Photo: Twitter.