Leslie Jones' Harassers Got What They Deserve

July 21st 2016

Lucy Tiven

On Monday evening, actress Leslie Jones responded to a barrage of racist hate speech from Twitter trolls by deactivating her account.

For a moment, the "Ghostbusters" star's Twitter exodus could have been interpreted as a victory for the angry mob that harassed her.

But their efforts quickly backfired.

Twitter also permanently banned Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who instigated some of the attacks against Jones, accused her of "playing the victim," and deemed her "barely literate." Though a Twitter spokesperson doesn't specifically mention Yiannopoulos in a statement to Recode, it does appear to reference his behavior:

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.

Some Twitter users responded with calls to reinstate Yiannopoulos's account, while others celebrated the ban.

Fans of the alt-right rabble-rouser and free-speech advocates used the hashtag #FreeMilo to voice their complaints.

"This has nothing to do with Milo and everything to do with PC fascism," Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, a friend of Yiannopoulos, told Business Insider in a statement.

Other users voiced approval of the site's decision.

Yiannopoulos's troubled relationship with Twitter is nothing new.

The self-described internet "supervillain" was temporarily suspended over anti-Islamic rhetoric after the Pulse Night Club massacre in Orlando, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported. Yiannopoulos's account was stripped of verification months earlier, possibly due to a tweet encouraging fellow trolls to harass a user deemed a “social justice loser."

This time, Twitter claims to have ousted Yiannopoulos for good. The Breitbart editor isn't alone in Twitter exile, and joins Azealia Banks and Gotnews founder Chuck Johnson, who have also been punished for trolling with permanent bans, Recode explains.

Yiannopoulos, for his part, told Heat Street he did not regret his tweets to Jones.

But the implications of Twitter's decision extend beyond the Leslie Jones debacle and any single troll.

In the statement shared with Recode, a Twitter spokesperson said the company was revisiting how it deals with hate speech and online abuse, though it did not address Yiannopoulos specifically.

"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."

The site plans to announce changes in its “hateful conduct policy" in the weeks ahead, with a focus on reducing the burden on the victims of targeted abuse.

The statement continues:

"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."

While not necessarily sympathetic to Twitter personalities like Yiannapolous, the free-speech advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation published an article in January of 2016 expressing concern over the seemingly arbitrary nature of Twitter's harassment policy.

[W]hereas the rules previously only banned “violence against others,” they now explicitly ban hateful speech – defined as any speech that threatens other people “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease” or incites harm towards others on the same bases. Threatening speech can cause harm, but we remain uncomfortable with the prospect of leaving it to Twitter to distinguish hateful speech from speaking truth to power across hundreds of countries and across every community.

ATTN: has reached out to Twitter for comment and will update accordingly.

[H/T Recode]