On Ghostbusters, Leslie Jones, and the duty of Twitter

Everybody knows by now that Twitter has permanently suspended the account of conservative Breitbart editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. His crime? Supposedly triggering a storm of abuse directed at actor Leslie Jones, one of the four stars of the new Ghostbusters movie. And as you also know, that movie has been extremely polarizing, largely because it’s taken a franchise that formerly had men in the starring roles and remade it with a female cast.

I see nothing wrong with that, but the movie activated a storm of criticism, largely from men, and much of that criticism was harsh. I see no explanation for such a level of rancor except pure sexism. I haven’t seen the movie, and won’t—those kind of movies aren’t my style—but most of the critics I trust have said that it’s not very good—that there are some clever bits, but the actors didn’t have any rapport and the effects were cheesy.  On the other hand, those committed to having more women in starring roles—an admirable motivation—seem to have promoted the movie solely because it had women in starring roles. When one can predict people’s reactions to a movie based on their politics, then you know something other than the quality of the movie is at stake. Ghostbusters became an ideological battleground, and the quality of the movie was totally lost in this battle.

I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t say whether it was good or bad—given my dislike of the genre, I’d probably find nearly all movies like it bad—but I can write about what happened later. Leslie Jones, the tall black actor in the movie, was barraged with obscene, racist, and insulting tweets. Among the people who went after her was Milo. Compared to those of his followers, his own tweets weren’t nearly as insulting (though still hurtful), for Milo’s followers share neither his wit nor subtlety.

I am not a big fan of Milo, but neither do I say that he should be ignored or shouted down.  He is a provocateur and often says things for their shock value, but some of his criticisms of the Regressive Left do bear pondering. I abhor his politics—he supports Trump, for instance—but I also abhor the way that American college students have treated him: trying to shout him down, pouring fake blood on themselves during his lectures, setting off fire alarms during his talks to silence him. It is a testimony to the power of his message, which drives Regressive Leftist college students mad, that rather than oppose him with words, they act out, behave like babies, and try to shut him up. Letting him speak is the very reason why we need the First Amendment in the U.S.

But that’s the First Amendment, which applies to speech in public. What about Twitter?

It won’t surprise readers here that I think Twitter, which has become THE public social media platform, should follow the First Amendment. It should not have banned either Milo or his followers, regardless of how much hatred they purveyed.

Did Twitter have the right to ban and block these people? Yes, of course—it’s part of their conditions of service. Should they have banned or blocked Milo? No, I don’t think so.

For, as we know, it’s a fine line between real hatred and “hatred” that is merely offense taken at criticism. Who will decide? I don’t trust Twitter to do that. After all, they regularly leave up vile things that make fun of ethnic groups (anti-Semitic campaigns, for example) or of individuals. Here’s a tweet by First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza, not only a specialist in free-speech litigation, but a liberal, and no fan of Milo. It shows the kind of abuse that Donald Trump’s wife gets on Twitter—comparable to the abuse heaped on Leslie Jones. Were Melania Trump’s critics blocked? Nope.

(Click screenshot to go to tweet; it won’t embed for some reason):

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.03.47 AM

What should somebody do who is the target of such harassment? I know that these comments are hurtful: I myself am hurt by a lot of the emails and comments I get about this site, but that doesn’t nearly amount to the harassment directed at Ms. Jones. Most of the comments directed at me just get dumped. One that came after my “get off my lawn” post—about words and phrases I didn’t like—read something like this: “Why don’t you retire, you sick fuck?” I just ignored it and quietly shelved it. Were that to happen to me on Twitter, I would not have reported it, though. Nor would I report a tweet that said something like, “Die in a fire, you ugly Jew.”  Sometimes I will block these people on my website,  where I have to read the comments, but I would never try to get them blocked on Twitter, where I can avoid comments. Is that hypocrisy? I don’t see it that way. My site is my own, and yes, Twitter is private, but it’s become so big that it is in effect our public social media platform. And no one person can police it all. Further, when I ban someone on my site, I don’t block them for everyone, for they can always spew their invective elsewhere. If you’re blocked on Twitter, you can’t address anything to anybody on the entire site. It’s not a private blog but, in effect, a public forum with millions of followers.

If you don’t like what you read on Twitter, you can block the sender personally, so you won’t even be able to read the comments. And you can retweet the abuse so that others can see it (even when I call attention to nastiness, I don’t dox the sender). My policy is to read Twitter comments only rarely, as I follow the advice of Nick Cohen: “Don’t read the comments on what you write.” Instead of broadcasting every message of hate you get, rise above that hatred and ignore it—or retweet it, mindful that the senders are odious.

I feel sorry for the abuse Leslie Jones has taken, and abhor those who have harassed her. I abhor those who call for the expulsion of Muslims from Europe and the U.S., and I abhor those who deny the Holocaust. But should they be censored? No, I don’t think so. For if free speech means anything, it means we must let the most marginal and the most vile opinions be heard. To give the power of censorship to an individual is to take away your own power of discrimination.

But are there some opinions so clearly “hate speech” that we should block them? I don’t think so. The line between harassment and criticism, or harassment and rudeness, is so fine that I don’t trust anyone, much less Twitter, to adjudicate it. We all know that criticism of the Black Lives Matter Movement, or of Islam, is considered offensive “hate speech” by some.  And it really does offend many of those people—they are not pretending to be hurt. But there is room for valid discussion of these issues, and critics should not be censored. We all know of cases in which valid criticism is publicly displayed as a form of victimism, considered “hate speech,” even though it isn’t.  (Ghostbusters is not such a case.)

On the other hand, the line between free speech and threats of violence is clearer, and the U.S. government hasn’t had much problem deciding which side of the line you’re on.

Here are two tweets for which Milo got banned. Are they insulting? Yes, one of them is. Are they hate speech? Not in my mind. Should someone be banned for life for saying this? No way.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.05.57 AM Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.06.09 AM

In my view, Twitter’s policy on discussion should be that of the U.S. government’s: all speech should be permitted except that which threatens immediate violence. (In the U.S., workplace harassment is also prohibited, but that’s not relevant on Twitter as one can ignore harassment on Twitter but not in the workplace.) And surely Yiannopoulos shouldn’t have been held responsible for what his “followers” did.

As we see in the Melania Trump case above, misogyny and hatred aren’t confined to right-wing trolls or Milo Followers. I would suspect that some of those who went after her were simply angry Democrats.

To reiterate: Leslie Jones didn’t deserve the storm of hatred, racism, and misogyny that was dumped on her. I know she feels horrible, and I sympathize with her. But just as such sentiments are permitted in the public sphere, so they should be permitted on Twitter, which has in effect become the online public sphere. If Twitter persists in blocking people, then they must do so equitably, and outline a clear policy for doing so. But I’d object to any clear policy. For if you’re a Leftist, and celebrating Milo’s ban, remember that the next time the bell tolls, it might be for thee.

Dave Rubin, it so happens, shares my sentiments, and posted a video about it yesterday. It’s well worth watching.


Note: Vox has another view, and in fairness I call it to your attention. Their conclusion:

But at the very least, Twitter’s decision to permanently ban Yiannopoulos from the site is historic and most likely will serve as a stepping stone for Twitter to refine and increase its tools for fighting abuse. In particular, this should increase Twitter’s ability to identify the kind of largely indirect harassment that Yiannopoulos specialized in: not individual acts of trolling, but rather homing in on a target and goading other Twitter followers to go on the attack.


  1. colnago80
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    The fact is that this is not a 1st Amendment issue. As I have repeatedly stated, Milo has the Constitutional right to speak his mind; he has no constitutional right to have Twitter, or any other such service provide him with a forum.

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Did you read my post? I am arguing that Twitter is the equivalent of a public forum, and shouldn’t police speech for its own good lest the whole thing degenerate into a bunch of finger pointing.

      I did not argue that Milo has a constitutional right to post on Twitter, as I clearly stated in my piece. My argument is that Twitter should follow First Amendment principles.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      It’s the principle. And Twitter, like FB, essentially has a monopoly.

      PCC has written two posts lately on FB censorship. Apparently it is ok to wish death to Jews on FB, whilst mild criticism of Islam will result in censorship. There is no “Constitutional right” to criticise Islam on FB, however it is still censorship, and unfair censorship, to punish some folks for having certain views whilst supporting others.

  2. Cindy
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    1)I love Leslie Jones. She is the only reason to watch SNL now. A funny woman.

    2) the person who insulted you is ?????. What a dummy.

    3) the Ghostbusters reboot was promoted based on nothing more than “you should see this movie because feminism and if you don’t you are a misogynist”. This is the kind of “promotion”hat will get people riled up.

    4) I was listening to the CBC this morning and a guest, a Guardian writer, conflated Milo’s actions with those of trolls who were tweeting pictures of lynchings, after which she argued that Milo and all “trolls” like him should be permabanned from social media.

  3. Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Milo knowingly posted fake tweets that were made to look like they were from Leslie Jones in order to further inflame the situation and incite more harassment.

    Even if Twitter did follow the Government’s approach to the First Amendment, Libel and Incitement are not Protected Speech.

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      I read that he didn’t know they were fake. Can you support the allegation that he did know they were fake? If he did that, it does verge on slander.

      • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        She has a verified account (a little blue check mark next to her name to let you know it is really her). Anything without the check mark is obviously not from her. Milo knows this. He had a big fight with Twitter about getting himself “verified.” It is not realistic that he didn’t know they were fake. He is an expert Twitter user. He knew exactly what he was doing.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          Interesting. I don’t know enough about Twitter to have caught that. Never used it before.

          Do you know how technically feasible it is or isn’t to find out who the sender of impersonated Tweets is? I’m guessing not very. If it happens to be feasible Twitter should automatically issue that information to all involved accounts when a case of impersonation occurs.

          • Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

            I’m no expert, and haven’t really looked into this too aggressively, but it seems like someone (probably Milo) wrote the fake tweet, took a screenshot of it, and then attached it to a tweet of his own saying, “look at this!” So it was never actually tweeted out from anyone’s account. There’s another tweet (sorry, no link) of a fan telling Milo, “Nice fake tweets, but you forgot to edit out the “delete” button.” And Milo replied, “Don’t tell me some mischievous internet rascal made them up!”

            It is not believable that he didn’t know they were fakes.

            • Cindy
              Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

              It’s all explained here:


              1) vile trolls from 4chan had been harassing Jones for hours
              2) Milo joined in and retweeted the fake tweets
              3) Milo told Jones to get a thicker skin (fyi, 4chan trolls hate Milo)
              4) Jones “sicced” her followers on one nasty troll in self-defense


              Milo is an ass.
              Jones should have just ignored the trolls (though that does not excuse the trolling)
              Twitter and FB both have disgusting double standards in that they will not punish “marginalized” people if they harass others. Someone here posted a great example of an FB study wherein a “death to all Jews” page was left alone, but a “death to Palestine” page was deleted.

    • Derek
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      It’s clear that the specifics of Milos comments didn’t get him booted. It’s because who he went after, and his political views. If they cared about spreading deliberate lies, Glen Greenwald would be gone for life. People are reacting so harshly to this movie because its a piece of garbage yet is being shoved down our throats. Reviewers treat the audiences like dumb babies who can’t think for themselves, and tell us why to like it as opposed to just liking it based on its actual quality. It’s insulting

      • darrelle
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        Shoved down your throats? That’s ridiculous, as in I laughed out loud when I read it. Or are you taking the piss?

        • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          Me too. I think he’s serious. Leslie Jones, apparently, should ignore tweets at her that she doesn’t like, but he seems unable to just ignore the Ghostbusters movie and reviews of it.

        • Derek
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          Yes shoved down our throats. For people who keep up with the industry and pay attention to film, It was everywhere. The fact that this movie is making this sort of commotion should be all you need to know. The movie itself is terrible and unfunny and doesn’t deserve any special criticism in that regard. But when people who point that out are instantly branded as misogynists, it shows the motivation behind the people propping it up. Its rare to find films with such a militant following especially for such a piece of crap.
          These kinds of articles being shared everywhere is part of the “shoving I’m referring to:

          I have no problem with this movie being made or the actors in it, people have a right to make whatever they want. I just hate disingenuous reviews and the ultimatum of either liking this movie or being a woman hater.

          • darrelle
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

            Okay, I took you up on being serious about this. I’ve read the articles you linked to, reviewed many of the sources they linked to and did a little digging around on my own.

            Let’s just say that you and I have different perspectives on this issue. I mean the controversy over the movie generally, not the Milo issue. It is difficult for me to see why a male that is not a misogynist to one degree or another could become so upset over this. Like I said, it’s ridiculous. To perhaps see why that is so take a look at the so-numerous-it-has-been-the-norm-in-most-societies-since-recorded-history instances of males carrying on about manly machoness and confidently expecting that women will either like it, deal with it quietly or ignore it.

            • Derek
              Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

              I would never deny the amount of sexist trolls that came out to rip on the actors for no reason other than being assholes. My point is strictly with the promotion of this movie, and the militant defense of it. It shouldn’t be that difficult to understand why as a movie fan, I am annoyed when really awful movies are propped up as transcendent film experiences. As for the movie itself, I don’t really care how much it blows. I see a ton of bad movies, especially lazy remakes like this, and I don’t lose much sleep over it. But when a movie that would normally get crucified by critics, gets 73% on rotten tomatoes consisting of reviews that don’t justify why it was good besides social reasons, it is annoying. This has nothing to do with who was cast, I actually didn’t even like the first one so I could care less. But I don’t see why the onus should be on me to show how I’m not a sexist for not liking it.

              • darrelle
                Posted July 22, 2016 at 6:39 am | Permalink

                “But I don’t see why the onus should be on me to show how I’m not a sexist for not liking it.”

                I do agree with that, it shouldn’t be.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted July 22, 2016 at 6:41 am | Permalink

                ‘cos when you posted ‘shoved down our throats’ without further context you *sounded* like a sexist. Or, the most probable reason for your dislike appeared – at that point – to be a sexist one.

                Now you’ve provided further context we may see your views a bit differently. If you’re a movie fan and it appears this movie is being promoted as great solely on the basis of its cast, I can understand your annoyance. I get similarly annoyed at things in my own pet interests for reasons that outsiders might find baffling.

                But given the existing controversy, you should probably have qualified your first comment a bit more carefully so we knew where you were coming from?


      • Dean Reimer
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Shoved down our throats? Huh, nobody has kidnapped me and tied me to a movie theater seat and forced me to watch the movie.

        Perhaps you should think for a bit about why you feel this movie is being “shoved down your throat” and why it makes you so angry.

        • Cindy
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          “Shoved down our throats” = relentless promotion of the movie from a feminist angle, and that anyone who does not approve of this, or of the reboot, is automatically sexist, chauvinist, and misogynist.

          • Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

            It seems that the initial wave of criticism against the reboot of Ghostbusters was due to it being recast with female leads. I have no issue when a reboot decides to recast a role or make changes from the original. Nobody wants a slavish remake of the original because you can always simply watch the original. I don’t mind criticism of the reboot based on the merits or lack thereof found in the film. None of the critics who were attacking Ghostbusters had seen the movie but rather were upset by the fact that women had taken the place of men as the leads. I saw the reboot and it worked just fine. They were able to take advantage of the sexist fanboy reaction in the narrative but it was never preachy nor did it ‘shove anything down our throats’ saying that men sucked. It was a nice twist to update the franchise and I suggest that critics give it a viewing before criticizing it.

            We need to remember that Ghostbusters is meant to be entertainment. It is not a religion like Star Trek where every little nuance must adhere to Roddenberry’s Canon. I’m going to see Star Trek Beyond tonight and worship at the altar of the Great Bird. All Hail The Great Bird! Live Long and Prosper or spend eternity in Gre’thor!

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

              It all gives a new meaning to crossing the River of Blood to Stovokor. 🙂

          • darrelle
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

            I seem to have completely missed all of the relentless promotion. Thank goodness!

            • Cindy
              Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

              “I didn’t see it therefore it didn’t happen”

              • darrelle
                Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

                No actually. What I actually said was that your characterization of events is not a good match for reality.

              • Cindy
                Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

                The movie was marketed as feminist and often those who simply disagreed – even if not anti-feminist, were instantly labelled as misogynist because anyone who might disagree with the reboot for any reason just *had* to be misogynist – there could be no other reason.

                And I have no doubt that the feminist angle was used because it is controversial and some folks believe that controversy drives sales. It’s a form of viral marketing – create some sort of scandal/controversy, and get loads of free press. It’s what Trump does.

          • Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

            Then, let those who disapprove the movie criticize it. Let them throw back insults at those who call them sexist, chauvinist and misogynist. But I see no justification in going after the actors.

            I have never been an actor but my idea of the job is, you register in the agencies and when someone calls you and says he has a role for you, you go and play the role as well as you can. You cannot change the screenplay, you are not welcome to comment it, and you do not pick in which movie/play to take part, unless you are a star, and maybe not even then.

            The way I see it, Milo is indeed sexist, chauvinist and misogynist. He is unhappy with the movie and the idea behind it, and he lashes out at an easy target – an actress, a hired worker who is just doing her job. Pathetic. (Disclaimer: I am not saying that he should have been banned from Twitter.)

            If he didn’t like the play of Ms. Jones, he could say that the movie, on top of being poorly conceived, has poor acting performance as well. But he would have won me if he had said that “it is a pity to waste the talent of actors on such movies”. (I haven’t seen the movie and do not intend to.)

            • Cindy
              Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

              But he would have won me if he had said that “it is a pity to waste the talent of actors on such movies”. (I haven’t seen the movie and do not intend to.)

              I agree.

              Leslie Jones has a had a particularly rough time of it, as hers was the only character that is *not* a scientist. In other words, black woman = not as intelligent as the white women.

              I think that a variety of people have criticize the movie for various reasons. Some are outright misogynists. Others simply don’t want to see a remake, and still others, as I remarked, are lashing out at the fact that movie was largely marketed as *feminist*.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

                I can’t help thinking there’s a touch of Ganergate here. Women playing roles in an iconic fan boy movie was never going to go down well with a certain segment of the population which is already notorious for its online nastiness.

                I think banning Yiannopoulos is wrong – there are plenty of much worse people saying much worse things still there. Rubin uses the example of Ayatollah Khamenei, who calls for the destruction of the US and Israel among other things.

                There has been criticism of Twitter because people’s lives have been ruined by tweets that have gone viral and they’ve done nothing to address that. However, this is a field dressing for a pin prick (pun intended). I doubt it’ll do anything at all to stop nasty tweeters. They already have the capacity to ban people temporarily, which they do. Surely that would’ve sufficed?

                I bet the aforementioned Ayatollah won’t get banned even temporarily next time he calls for the death of Israel or America. And when are they going to shut down the thousands of accounts belonging to everyone from DAESH to the Ayran Brotherhood?

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      That’s what I saw too Matty. Milo reposted what he claimed were highly offensive Tweets from Jones and sicced his followers on her. Jones tried at first to be reasonable and clarify that those were bogus and not from her. Milo and his followers ignored that and went on an ugly racist and sexist jihad against Ms. Jones. It spiraled downward from there.

      If I were a public personality I would have an assistant for social media. They would deal with obnoxious and asinine posts by blocking those making them and stating when my account had not made inflammatory posts like those Milo accused Ms. Jones of posting. I would refuse to get down in the mud with people like Milo who are desperate to engage in this manner to raise their profile.

      I love Twitter but it does allow keyboard cowboys to be abusive hiding behind their anonymity. I’d like to see Twitter have users verify their accounts. That way when people post such hateful attacks, they can’t hide from it. Twitter should issue a clear set of standards on what constitutes a violation of their TOS and what the consequences are. I’ve had my account suspended because Christians didn’t like my posts about their beliefs. Without knowing what the rules are on what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable posts, you just never know what will get your account suspended. Then the rules should be applied equally across the political spectrum.

      I don’t want to see Draconian PC standards put in place but I don’t want the online equivalent of Somalia either. Just some basic guidelines to address harassment.

      I saw Ghostbusters in the theater back in 1984 and loved it. I went to see the rebooted Ghostbusters last week and while it wasn’t as good as the original, it was still pretty darn funny and well done. The story was about bringing the team together and there was a prior conflict between two of the main characters that had to be worked out. So it took about half of the movie to get the team together but by the end, the chemistry was there. They set up the sequel with the ending so that team chemistry will be there from the start next time. Also, a number of original Ghostbusters easter eggs were there for us old school fans. So I don’t understand the hate for this reboot.

  4. Mike
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I share pretty much the same opinion.
    On the movie itself, I don’t like the idea of messing with an established role in a fundamental way, just to tick a box. That’s what I felt like Ghostbusters did. What other, especially comic book characters have had done to them recently, and my own personal favorite show, Doctor Who. There’s been calls for the ethnicity and/or gender changed. And I don’t see why that’s important.

    I fully support strong female roles and likewise with non-white actors, but I don’t think producers should be changing the fundamental characteristics of a character just to meet someone’s definition of ‘inclusivity’.
    And I’d feel the same way if a white and/or male actor was cast in a historically female and/or black role.

    So with Ghostbusters specifically, I would have preferred an entirely new concept with an all female cast, rather than riding on the original and just changing the genders.

    As for free speech, Twitter and Milo.
    Like you, I don’t like his politics, I’d even go further and say that from what I’ve seen, he’s not a very nice person either. He’s not just being ‘politically incorrect’, he’s being an outright jerk and a bully.

    But as a strong advocate for free speech, I support his right to be a jerk, and similarly, for people to call him out on his actions and words. There are a few cases where there are and should be limits to free speech and I favor the American law (as opposed to the British one I have to live with), which is much more relaxed on speech, but even in the US there’s restrictions. And those restrictions are mostly sound ones like inciting violence and serious cases of defamation.

    That said, Twitter has the right to set its own guidelines & restrictions. Even so, I’m not sure I agree with their actions in this particular case, despite finding Milo to be a poor example of a human being.

    • jay
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Agreed, simply sticking alternative actors into roles just reeks of ‘correctness. I have not seen this one, but the naughty frat boys characters in the original would not translate well.

      It’s sad because it would be good to have more comedy vehicles for women (there are some good ones, but more would be welcome), but comedy works when there is a touch of truth mixed with a touch of absurdity… once it becomes a morality play, it’s pointless.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        However, the women cast in this one are genuinely funny, and if the script is suitably tailored for them, OK.

        The original interested me ONLY because of the presence of Murray and Ackroyd. (The premise seemed a bit weak to me.)

        Some roles for men were retailored for a woman before shooting began, notably Ripley in “Alien” (generally regarded as the first female action hero), and recently Angelina Jolie was in a spy thriller originally written with Tom Cruise in mind.
        No one complained because the original choice was never filmed.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Good that Rubin makes the distinction between first amendment free speech and free speech elsewhere. We need to be clear in this because it seems many people do not get this.

    Individuals with web sites and company web sites can create all the rules they wish. When the free public is allowed in, it may be a good idea to have more rules instead of less. A public forum such as twitter maybe needs more than most because otherwise it is almost taken over by the loons and disgusting people out there in cyber world.

    To show an example, we know there is porn on the internet. It is big business just as it was before the internet. But you have to go there to see it. It is not there when you turn on the computer. Twitter is not so much that way as I understand it and anyone that you have not blocked can jump in and away they go. It sucks all the oxygen out of the conversation.

    Would you have a talk show on TV where you just let anyone get up and start talking? Not if you want to keep any viewers. I would rather find some way to keep the cowards and obnoxious people away and not have the platform ruined.

    • Geoffrey Howe
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say Twitter is there when you turn on your computer. I despise Twitter and have never used it. I only have a very vague idea of what it’s interface looks like, from various pictures of it I’ve seen on youtube videos or the like.

      Leslie could just leave Twitter, partly because 140 characters is a much better format for abuse and harassment than it is for thoughtful conversation. It’s a terrible site, and abuse like this is part of the reason for that.

      Now, of course, Twitter can, and should, take measures to stop this kind of harassment. However, my big problem with the Milo ban is that Milo is nothing more than an asshole. The only kind of bigot he is, as far as I can tell, is against lesbians (he’s never elaborated on that to my knowledge, so it might just be a running gag for him though). On the other hand, I recall hearing about pro-cop killing posts on Twitter after some of the shootings. Then there’s all the crazy islamism shit.

      If Milos ban is followed by a ban on other nasty ideaologues, then that’s fine. It’ll just be Twitter trying to clean itself up. While Milo didn’t do anything bad enough to be banned in my opinion, if the site engages in an across the board cleanup of assholes, then that’s their decision.

      But I doubt it. I suspect this is just another case of the Regressive Left silencing an acceptable target, while ignoring the far worse statements of protected classes. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I so rarely am in these cases.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I should have said – When you turn on twitter, not the computer. I would refer anyone to the Timothy Cootes essay over at Quillette, The case against social media.

  6. Christopher
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    After seeing the post comparing Leslie Jones to the 1975 live-action Ghostbusters character Tracy (a gorilla), I swung the other way on this topic and the movie. I agree that social media needs to apply their “community standards” fairly and equally. I am in agreement with free speech. But, I think twitter has the right to ban someone after repeated violations just like a restaurant has the right to refuse service to someone and remove them from the premise if they were saying the same things about someone at another table. I know I’ll be a minority here, but if twitter sets the ground rules for using their site and you constantly violate those rules, I see it as perfectly acceptable to ban someone.

  7. Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    It’s a great question — I’ve asked related questions about Facebook before (at what point does it essentially become a public utility, and hence gain ‘public’ obligations?) I’ve posted your commentary at Business Ethics Highlights https://businessethicshighlights.com/2016/07/21/twitter-free-speech/

    • W.Benson
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      I agree entirely.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      … at what point does it essentially become a public utility, and hence gain ‘public’ obligations? …

      Not that there is a bright line to be had here, but the primary consideration should be whether the government has granted, or has created circumstances which have given, a private entity a monopoly (or near-monopoly) over a particular means of public communication.

      If it has, then it’s sound public policy to impose upon that quasi-governmental monopoly quasi-governmental obligations, such as that it abide by First Amendment standards. If it hasn’t, then imposing such standards is tantamount to nationalizing private property.

      This is, of course, a different question than whether it is provident for even purely private entities to adopt such standards voluntarily in the interest of fomenting free expression.

  8. nickswearsky
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Leslie Jones has been the main and, at times, only reasons to watch SNL lately. I think she’s great! I don’t get the hate on Twitter. It may not be a great movie, but WTF?

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      I’ve explained it above: a combination of racism and misogyny that is unleashed by the Internet. It has little to do, I think, with the quality of the movie. It’s unconscionable. But, of course, much of the approbation given to the movie also has little to do with its quality.

  9. Somite
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    There’s also a difference between banning someone that offers nothing substantive, like Milo as opposed to someone like Hitch.

    Shouldn’t we be able to discard bad ideas and sources of consistently bad ideas? I personally don’t worry about the free speech rights of bigots.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Atheist ideas are not substantive.
      Atheists are bigoted.
      Atheists offer nothing.
      Atheists should be banned from social media.

      • Patrick
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        Can you please explain the use of “Atheist”?

        Is it an example to the above comment?

        I take your comment as an example of “insert name/group here” to illustrate ones interpretation of bad ideas that fit the above mentioned comment. Looking for clarification.

        • Cindy
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          I take your comment as an example of “insert name/group here” to illustrate ones interpretation of bad ideas that fit the above mentioned comment. Looking for clarification.

          You are correct.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            Your “insert name here” comment is almost word for word one I’ve had in real life on Twitter a few years ago. I didn’t comment on it, but I did retweet it. Other people had some fun with the writer, but it never got nasty on the atheist side. After a few hours everyone just got bored and moved onto other stuff.

      • Somite
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Is atheism bigoted?

        Does atheism involves harassing people through sock puppet accounts?

        Has atheism violated the twitter TOS?

        These are questions that can definitely be answered that would distinguish atheism from Milo.

        And before you point out that some atheists do these things, the obvious answer is that anyone who engages in behavior that repeatedly violates twitter TOS should not be surprised if banned.

    • jay
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      There are definitely some books which should be banned. But we can’t agree on which ones.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        In which case, the rational solution is to ban none at all. Let each reader decide for herself. Why should anyone ever have the power to proscribe what another reads?

      • Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        I’d rush to ban books prescribing disastrous medical advice. But it may be better to put a warning stamp on them.

        Currently, books that would contain classified information are banned, and I find this OK. I know that some people think all classified information must be on the Web for free, but I disagree.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          Why isn’t the solution for books containing bad medical advice the same as the solution for any other type of “bad” speech — the encouragement of good speech criticizing the bad and containing sound medical advice? Banning the sale of such books in the US would violate the First Amendment (although publishers might — to the extent they would deign to publish such bad-medical-advice books at all — wish to include a disclaimer to minimize their civil liability).

          Also, although those who obtain classified information by way of their employment may be contractually required to submit manuscripts of books pertaining to their employment for review and redaction of classified information by their employers, there is no general prohibition in the US on anyone else publishing a book containing classified information under the First Amendment’s “prior restraint” doctrine.

          • Posted July 22, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

            In medicine, there is demonstrable progress about what helps and what doesn’t, and government has on its payroll some of the best medical experts. As a result, citizens of advanced countries actually expect the government to prescribe and provide essential vaccines and to control the drug market so that drugs proven bad are not sold. I think that it would be fitting to extend this control to medical advice, though it may not be feasible.
            Things are much more problematic in politics, economics etc. There, unlike in medicine, lay people are expected to make their own judgement. Should government isolate them from toxic views by e.g. banning Mein Kampf? I do not think so.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Who ya gonna call to decide which one is a Milo and which is a Hitch, as the Ghostbusters might say — or, as the Roman poet Juvenal might put it, who will guard the guards themselves?

  10. Andres Esteller
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I politely disagree sir, and let me explain why.

    You and Rubin call him a ‘provocateur’ which is kind of laughable as far as euphemisms go. He’s not a ‘provocateur’, he’s a bully, specifically, a cyber bully that thinks it is funny to mobilize his supporters to insult and degrade people on a regular basis. I followed Milo’s account for a very long time, I saw him use it to fat shame, mock, humiliate and shame all sorts of people. There may be many trolls on the Internet, but Milo became a ‘professional’ sort of troll with a centralized following of less sophisticated ‘little trolls’

    Twitter had already been watching his account, and the reason it took them this long to ban it was exactly for what you are saying, their commitment to a free speech platform. However, after the clear harassment Leslie Jones experienced it became obvious that Milo wasn’t using it to ‘exchange ideas’ like Rubin said, but instead to BULLY people and harass them for his own amusement.

    Twitter is a private company, they can ban whom they please. However, allow me to give you the reason I think they did this. If we allow Milo to use the platform in this way, he will only give rise to more figures like him to become centralized feeds of trolls and bullies.

    Twitter should not become an environment full of Milos, we can choose not to give BULLIES a platform. So I’m sorry Mr. Coyne, I admire you and your work very much, but I can’t agree with you here.

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      That’s fine; you’re welcome to disagree with me here so long as you do so politely, as you have done.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      You make some valid points, however there are double standards.
      It seems that people on the higher level of the victim hierarchy are not subject to the same scrutiny.

      For example, here are some of Lielie’s own tweets:

      Lord have mercy…white people shit

      ok you white girls are starting to look alike like a mutherfucka.I swear i went to high school with them two girls!

      Not being rape by white man. What part of this joke that wasn’t true? I would have been used for breeding straight up. That’s my reality.

      Yo them dudes with the curls on the side of they head does that make them more Jewish?

      • Cindy
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        And Muslims were free to praise the Orlando killer after the massacre. But they are also higher on the victim hierarchy than a gay white man so they should not be censored…

      • Christopher
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Didn’t you get the memo? It’s not racism if it’s directed towards white people.

        While those tweets are not on the same level as the ones she received, they are a good example of hypocrisy. Just last night Jimmy Kimmel did a skit making fun of white people dancing at the Trumpublican convention. Because, as we all know, white people can’t dance and don’t have any rhythm. and conversely, ALL black people can dance and have natural rhythm, right?

        I have actually been told, and I quote “Black people can’t be racist, they’re BLACK!” (said by a very exasperated white/jewish girl I made the mistake of dating once). Basically, this in itself is racist, as we are expected to hold white people and black people to different standards of behavior.

        How about a little consistency? When the South Carolina Church shooter specifically went to kill black people, he was labeled a racist. When the murderer in Dallas said he intended to kill as many cops and white people as possible, nobody labeled him as a racist, even though in both cases the focus was on killing someone based on their race. Are these two cases not the most extreme example of racism, regardless of the color of the targets?

        • Cindy
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          Black people can be racist, should they disagree with the regressive narrative, in which case they are now ‘white’, have ‘white brains’ and are ‘tools of white supremacy’

          • Christopher
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

            I had a close friend/co-worker who was often on the receiving end of “acting white”. Incidentally, he attempted to introduce me to his cousin, I think, who told him point-blank “I don’t date white guys”. since he had spent so much time growing up around white people, white culture, including being the only black kid in his school he was apparently not “black enough”. I can only image how irritating it was for him. He was such a great guy it was hard to understand how anyone could get angry at him. Sad to have lost track of him.

      • flies01
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        the comments you post are certainly offensive, but they don’t suggest a double standard. Milo was banned because he (indirectly, perhaps) orchestrated a campaign of harassment, not for making off-color jokes.

    • Sakebomb
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      I agree, if Twitter doesn’t set minimum guidelines what’s stopping it from turning into 4chan or reddit. Users could flock to a competitor if it turns into a cesspool.

  11. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    A producer/director should be able to change and fill any character they want any way they want. They are putting up the money. The product will be supported by consumers or not.

    If they want to remake movies with all male or all female casts, that’s up to them. It’s up to consumers to make up their mind. Free expression works both ways. We have the freedom to ignore what we don’t like, they have the freedom to cast as they see fit. Including casting in whatever fashion they see fit. I see no problem with casting an all female team, even if it was specifically to make a statement. It’s their money.

    Almost anyone can make a movie these days, if someone thinks they know the best way, they can try and see if the public agrees.

    With 7 billion people on the planet, they will probably find someone who likes it.
    Or not.

    As for Twitter, how does the law work with an international company like twitter? Each tweet crosses hundreds of borders, each country having it’s own laws. Some of those countries have hate speech laws, contrary to the USA.

    Wouldn’t using the US as a basis cause pandemonium for Twitter in how it follows laws in each jurisdiction? Isn’t this why it uses a policy that enforces an interpretation of free speech that’s seen in more countries, rather than the more extreme US version?

  12. Eric Grobler
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I do not think Milo deserves to be banned but he was unnecessarily rude and Milo fans should criticize him for that.

    I often play chess online and about 10% of the time my anonymous opponent (normally when he/she starts losing) starts throwing sexual insults at me. If apparent intelligent people in the context of a chess game does that there is little hope for civil discourse on twitter.

  13. Robert
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    According to Vox, the types of trolling that got Milo banned were not “individual acts of trolling, but rather homing in on a target and goading other Twitter followers to go on the attack.” Ok, fine. However, Leslie Jones herself had told her followers to *directly* attack another user previously: “@whitebecky b*tch I want to tell you about your self but I’m gonna let everybody else do it I’m gonna retweet your hate!! Get her!! – Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) July 19, 2016” Unless she forgot to type “a soda” at the end of said tweet, I don’t see how this is any more acceptable than Milo’s alleged transgressions. Some consistency would be nice.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 22, 2016 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Just a note of caution, was that a genuine Jones tweet or one of the fake ones that Milo is mentioned to have retweeted?

      (I personally wouldn’t have a clue, not being on Tw*tter and barely on Farcebook)


      • Cindy
        Posted July 22, 2016 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        I did some digging around and found this:


        Though Milo is undoubtedly a jerk, Twitter believes in selective enforcement of anti-harasment policy…

  14. Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I am so out of touch. I had no idea anyone was making a fuss over women starring the Ghostbusters remake… getting in a froth about it is silly. And I’m out of touch because I don’t tweet, or twitter, or whatever it is. But agree that the First Amendment should apply in the same way it does for plain speech, so long as it doesn’t create panic (fire!) or constitute an overt threat of harm. And we’re seeing Ghostbusters this afternoon because we’re fans of cheesy effects!

    • Christopher
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure what the big deal about women ghostbusters is, but I’m not too thrilled about yet another reboot. Yes, HollowWood has run out of ideas but hell, one would think that they could at least bang out a script where old and worn out original crew, minus Egon, sadly, are handing over the reigns…enter the new crew which are the women in the movie, then cobble together some silly story, perhaps Aleister Crowley-related would be my choice, or some such, and they do their thing etc. To just remake the same thing but different is not too exciting but I’ve decided to go see it anyway. Matinee. I’m not paying full price.

      I suspect the reason everyone’s pissed not because they’re women, but because they’re not Dan Aykroyd or Bill Murray, (and I’ll miss Ernie Hudson) and especially Harold Ramis, and the less intelligent complainers have focused their anger through a lens of misogyny and racism because they aren’t able to express themselves beyond sneering and grunting, when they’re not cheering Trump.

  15. Steve Zeoli
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    1. This was a campaign of harassment on the part of Milo WhatsIsFace. Harassment is not protected speech.

    2. You can call Twitter a public forum, but the fact that you have to agree to certain guidelines in order to use Twitter means it is NOT a public forum. (Zeus help us if it is.)

    3. Not only does Twitter have the right to ban harassing users, I think it has an obligation to do so.

    4. I agree that Twitter needs to apply these standards to all users. Hate mongers appear on all sides of the political spectrum.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      This was a campaign of harassment on the part of Milo WhatsIsFace

      Can you substantiate your accusation?
      I think Milo was very rude but I am not aware he “campaigned” for her to be harassed in this manner.

      And why use insults like “WhatsIsFace”? This is the kind of discourse we all want to avoid?

      • Luis Servín
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        He didn’t need to “campaign”. Milo knows his followers very well. As a social media and Twitter expert, and from his previous experience, he knew that all he needed to do was to get into a strong argument with her and that his minions would follow suit.

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Over at WaPo online, I sometimes make comments following an article where I might occasionally disparage the article’s subject… the Great Orange Hope, for example. Would that be harassment? And though I’m beneath his notice, he’s so thin-skinned that he might want to make an example even of me… who knows? I never read the posting guidelines there (does anyone ever read that stuff?), but, technically, maybe I’m violating their community guidelines when I refer to him as an Oompa Loompa. Does that make me a hate monger?

      • Cindy
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        I have spoken with Catholics who state that ‘simply going against the grain of the site’ is trolling.

        So, by that logic, anyone show shows up here and disagrees with PCC is a troll and should be rightfully banned.

  16. Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    There is a structural fix Twitter can use. I don’t understand why they haven’t implemented it for situations like Milo. Twitter is a “micro blog” each tweet a mini post. The difference between a blog and a tweet aside from the size, is the tweet can be addressed directly to a user. All they have to do is remove his @ function and he can post his opinions 24/7. Those who want to hear his nonsense can follow or list or search it to their hearts content. I think that would satisfy Twitter’s “social duty” to free speech.
    Milo by himself isn’t an insurmountable problem. It’s the horde of folks who use the idea of free speech as cover to spread their toxicity as far as they can. And by any reasonable account their was some unnecessary shit tweeted to Ms Jones.
    I don’t understand Milo. This is sorta back to the identity politics issue again, but he’s chosen for whatever reason to champion social conservatism for a cause that will just as surely treat him poorly once his usefulness is over.
    It personally pains me to defend his speech simply because, like the proverbial broken clock, he manages to be right twice a day.

  17. Matthew
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I think this issue is a bit more complicated than simply one of respecting free speech. Twitter isn’t a college lecture or an op-ed; it’s a platform on which a single action can have geometric consequences in a very short period of time, and that’s the rub here.

    Yiannopoulos understands social media very well. It would be laughable to believe that he has no idea what will happen if he insults someone on Twitter. People will often assert that one simply can’t be held responsible for the actions of one’s Twitter followers, but this is an assertion that ignores common sense and causality. If it is the case that Yiannopoulos’s followers will reliably attack a person whom Yiannopoulos attacks, how can we say he bears no responsibility for their actions.

    If we assume that Yiannopoulos knows to a certainty that anyone he insults on Twitter will receive a maelstrom of vicious, hateful attacks from his followers, then must we not also say that he is responsible for those attacks? I think so, inasmuch as I think we would hold Trump liable for a protester at one of his rallies getting beaten after one of Trump’s remarks about “roughing them up.”

    Given the above, Twitter finds itself in a difficult position. It is one thing to say that Leslie Jones may safely ignore the taunts of a single individual by simply blocking them; no harm done. But if that individual can rally thousands of supporters to the cause of harassing Jones, we have a very different problem.

    At this point, Twitter, by doing nothing, is serving up a torrent of hatred, racism, and misogyny directly to Jones, at the best of one of its other users, acting with the sure knowledge that his own words will unleash a volley of slime from others.

    This isn’t a campus lecture that Leslie Jones can simply choose not to attend. If she wants to use Twitter then she has no choice but to endure the abuse with no recourse anytime a Yiannopoulos decides she merits it.

    It seems to me that Twitter has every right to defend its users against this sort of behavior. If it doesn’t, then it’s tacitly allowing its own platform to be used as a weapon by powerful bullies.

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      But you don’t HAVE to look at the comments on Twitter, so it’s not true that if you want to use Twitter then you have no choice to endure the abuse. I almost never look at comments on Twitter, which are mostly reposts from this site. When I do, there’s sometimes vile stuff in there. That’s why, on the whole, I avoid looking. There is no requirement that you read all the reactions to what you say, and, with Hollywood stars, I suspect they have neither the time nor inclination to, and if they did they’d see a lot of “abuse.”

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      If it is the case that Yiannopoulos’s followers will reliably attack a person whom Yiannopoulos attacks, how can we say he bears no responsibility for their actions.

      I do not follow Milos’ twitter account but if he tweets something mildly offensive like “your movie sucks” and then there follow a barrage of highly offensive tweets, how exactly is he responsible?

      Likewise if I am a celebrity and I state that Islamic immigration should be halted and Islam is a terrible religion etc and then one of my unstable fans shoots an innocent Muslim – am I responsible?

      • Matthew
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        He is responsible to the extent that he is aware of what will happen if he does just that. If you know that your actions are going to have a certain consequence, then you own that consequence.

        If the chairman of the Fed says that the economy is going into the toilet, and stock prices fall, he could make the same argument you’re making. “I didn’t trade any of those stocks. How am I responsible?” But would any thinking person accept that he bears no responsibility in that situation?

        Free speech isn’t the same as unlimited speech. As the saying goes, your right to swing your arm ends where the other guy’s nose begins.

  18. Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    “Twitter is private, but it’s become so big that it is in effect our public social media platform.”

    I agree Tw*tter essentially holds a monopoly over the online public square.

    “To reiterate: Leslie Jones didn’t deserve the storm of hatred, racism, and misogyny that was dumped on her. I know she feels horrible, and I sympathize with her.”

    While I agree she doesn’t deserve it, call me heartless, soulless, or lacking emotion, but I don’t get why she “feels horrible”, or why anyone, other than a child, would over online “abuse”. The people hurling abuse are either, ignorant, or @ssholes. Why would anyone be bothered by what they say? I was physically bullied as a child, and took to heart the old “sticks, and stones” expression. There are no words that anyone can say to me that bothers me, unless it’s true, and I should be bothered by it. Much of this SJW/regressive BS is fed by people claiming they are being hurt/offended by words.

    • devoutbuddhist
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Totally agree.
      And while I don’t condone the comments targeting her, it’s perhaps understandable why reacted that way when the whole theme of promoting the movie is that sexism is the only reason people wouldn’t want to see it. When you insult them on mass, they’re gonna insult back. Why is it that only they get censored?

      • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        “When you insult them on mass, they’re gonna insult back. Why is it that only they get censored?”

        I wonder how many people who have called someone a racist, one of the worst insults you can direct at someone in my book, have been banned from Tw*tter?

        • devoutbuddhist
          Posted July 22, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          Very good point.

  19. Marta
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Once you’ve established that Twitter can block whomever it chooses for whatever reasons it likes, everything that follows is irrelevant. Twitter gets to decide what kind of platform it wants to be, and its consumers can decide whether Twitter’s business model meets their needs. These are the facts.

    Just as our proprietor refuses to be dictated to about what he should write, exercises firm control over both content and tone of comments hosted at this website, and requires his guests to abide by the roolz he has every right to create as he wants, so, too, does Twitter have the right–if not the obligation–to block a racist, misogynistic, Trump supporting, fuckwit whose largest contribution to Twitter is to poop in the punchbowl that other people are also trying to use.

    Users who are upset that Milo has been booted from Twitter are quite free to continue to pursue the feeble-minded cumbubble over at Breitbart, the original sewer from which he escaped. Twitter will either survive the mass exodus of its users (could be as many as a dozen people now!) because of the loss of their alt-right hero, Milo, or Twitter will go the way of Earthlink, AOL and CompuServe. Either way, Twitter, like the New York Times and Whyevolutionistrue.com, has no obligation–legal or ethical, to provide a platform to anyone for any reason. All else is commentary.

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      What Twitter is entitled to do by its rules and what it SHOULD do given its reach are different questions. My post was clearly about the latter, and I don’t think it’s irrelevant at all.

      • Marta
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        What Twitter SHOULD do is whatever it likes, within its business and legal brief, that returns value to its stockholders. Unless and until Twitter becomes a public utility, (that would be “never”, for impatient readers), its “reach” is entirely beside the point.

        NB: The New York Times, as far as I know, does not welcome, and will not print, guest editorials from Stormfront. Are you arguing that, because of its “reach”, it should be obliged to publish content from the Ku Klux Klan?

        • Cindy
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

          What Twitter SHOULD do is whatever it likes, within its business and legal brief, that returns value to its stockholders


          Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest man in the Arab world, has increased his Kingdom Holding Company’s share stake in Twitter to become the social media giant’s second largest shareholder.

          The ostentatious Saudi royal and Kingdom Holdings increased their ownership in the past six weeks to a total of 34,948,975 shares, representing more than 5% of Twitter’s common stock. The shares have a market value of $1bn (£653m, €888m), the company said in a statement. The billionaire prince’s company originally invested $50m in the tech company in 2011, doubling its stake since August.


          And should Wal-Mart have a monopoly on bookselling, thus shutting down many independent bookstores across the nation, should they choose to only sell Christian books, then so be it, as they only have one obligation, and that is to be loyal to their stockholders!

          And I could talk about the Catholic buyout of hundreds of secular hospitals…but hey, the newly minted Catholic hospitals can be run any way the RCC wants since they only have one responsibility, and that is to the their stockholder – the Catholic Church.

          • Marta
            Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

            Wal-Mart sells what its customers want to buy. And what their customers want to buy is cheap stuff, and a lot of it. Also, too, Amazon was and is the biggest threat to indie bookstores, but whatever. Wal-Mart and its many complexities are the stuff of dozens of Harvard case studies and are better argued there.

            The hospital question is much more interesting, however. But comparing healthcare service and delivery to women from Catholic owned hospitals is a wickedly inapt product comparison to Twitter.

            I don’t know who owns how much of Twitter or why they do, but neither do I care. When the United States Congress starts to give a shit about foreign ownership of American assets, they start with China, which owns most them, including the fillings in my teeth.

            • Cindy
              Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

              Wal-Mart sells what its customers want to buy. And what their customers want to buy is cheap stuff, and a lot of it. Also, too, Amazon was and is the biggest threat to indie bookstores, but whatever. Wal-Mart and its many complexities are the stuff of dozens of Harvard case studies and are better argued there.

              Before Amazon became a big player Wal-mart was a real threat to independent bookstores. When Wal-mart moved into an area, and began selling books at a discounted price, independent booktores often went of business because they could not compete. Now, when Wal-mart chooses to stock their stores with good, pure, family friendly books, and all of those independent bookstores are out of business, you now have a case of censorship. Censorship through monopoly.

              • Marta
                Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

                I’d be more worried about Wal-Mart’s cornering the book market with, presumably, religious oriented material, if I thought their customers could read.

                I don’t think you can argue sensibly that a small bookstore which is driven out of business by a big box store = censorship.

              • Cindy
                Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

                So if Rupert Murdoch or the Kochs or their ilk were to buy up all social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, and the like, and then proceed to silence and ban progressive voices, you would be totally ok with that?

                And the same if they owned the dominant search platform, Google, and manipulated search results to push false and misleading stories?

                And of course, since these companies are so large, well-funded, and deeply entrenched, making a liberal-friendly competitor would be on the border of impossibility.

                You wouldn’t see this as a failure of the system, right?

          • Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            But Twitter is international, right? Only the U.S. has the 1st Amendment, and its hard-core protection of political speech is somewhat different than the rest of the civilized world.

            The rest of the civilized world decided decades ago that not every single political idea was worthy of hard-core protection in public fora, assuming one can make the case that Twitter is indeed a public forum.

            Hate speech is not tolerated well outside of the U.S., and the rest of the world considers our insistence that everyone abide by our 1st Amendment’s dictates sadly parochial. Perhaps we haven’t noticed their vexation because they are so uniformly polite about it.

            • Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

              “The rest of the world considers our insistence that everyone abide by our 1st Amendment’s dictates sadly parochial. Perhaps we haven’t noticed their vexation because they are so uniformly polite about it.”

              Personally, I would like EU also to have a 1st Amendment. And I do not think non-Americans are too polite to Americans. I am often shocked by the hateful, bigoted, knee-jerk anti-Americanism expressed by educated people in Europe and elsewhere.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted July 22, 2016 at 7:08 am | Permalink

                A knee-jerk reaction frequently triggered by the American assumption, whether intentional or unconscious, that American standards should prevail internationally.

                (Which is not to say that American norms are better or worse in any particular case, than foreign ones).


  20. devoutbuddhist
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Aside from the 1st two paragraphs, I agree with your assessment of Twitter and banning.
    The real problem I see here is a monopoly. Normally, after Twitter selectively bans some people as is their legal right, the users who value freedom of speech would simply migrate to some other social media service. But, in this case, there simply *is* no other service. Personally, I bear Twitter no ill will for censoring (aside from their lying about it), I simply am concerned that there is no other alternative.
    We have anti-trust laws, and this may be an area where society should consider invoking them.
    I don’t know what challenges are involved in some starting up a competitor to Twitter or why it hasn’t happened yet, but until it does, we should be concerned that Twitter’s dishonestly selective censorship effectively amounts to significant infringement of peoples’ free speech.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      What is a “Devout” Buddhist?

      From my exposure to sanitized zen for the westerner the term devout feels wrong 🙂

    • Dean Reimer
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      No other service? There is Facebook, Google+, and the other great repository of Milo’s kind of abuse: Reddit.

      • devoutbuddhist
        Posted July 22, 2016 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        True, FaceBook is the only service that equals or exceeds Twitter, but, from what I’ve seen, FaceBook too is a platform that cares little for freedom of speech.

        Google+ and Reddit look puny to me, but good point. As long as they exist, it’s somewhat harder to argue that Twitter has a monopoly.

  21. J.Baldwin
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    The likely result of this kind of anti-speech authoritarianism is the rise of an alternate site that allows unfettered speech. The left will gravitate to Twitter, the right to Foxwitter and never the twain will speak to each other…and that’s a shame.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      The Balkanization of the West!

  22. Glenn
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Thoughtful, cogent, well done. What good is free speech if it can’t at times offend.

  23. Kevin
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Wow. I really feel sorry for Melania. Still, I do not get what Milo has done wrong. People need some thick skin and perspective.

    Ghostbusters is not my type of movie, but based on the trailer, the four main actors have no redeemable features. In comparison, my favorite actress on the planet for over a decade: Judi Dench. She leaves me breathless in every screen presence. Mind-boggling amazing.

    Also in contrast, opera singers. I follow many of them and ’round mounds of sound’ hardly begins to describe the appearance of some of them. But this is not about appearance, its about sublime emotion, ethereal talent, stage personality, and inner strength. The Ghostbuster characters are an embarrassment.

  24. dabertini
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Another beautiful piece!! Thanks for this PCC (e).

  25. Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Key lines from this excellent post:

    “To give the power of censorship to an individual is to take away your own power of discrimination.”

    “For if you’re a Leftist, and celebrating Milo’s ban, remember that the next time the bell tolls, it might be for thee.”

  26. Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    One of the reasons I visit this site is that the PCC has well-articulated civility Roolz, and ousts those who won’t abide. I don’t twitter or visit Reddit because I have no use for people screaming insults and inciting hatred. I have long been a defender of free speech, hateful or not, but I must admit that the prevailing tenor of public discourse disgusts me.

    • Posted July 21, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      Or maybe it is just the Republican convention that has got me down.

  27. Posted July 21, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I think a good compromise would be for Twitter to provide better tools for each user (e.g. a full dashboard) to block out people from their timeline and from mentioning them with the @ handle. Twitter can facilitate blocking of followers of people, people using certain keywords, based on their IP, etc. They have lagged behind on improving usability, adding features, etc. WordPress, Blogpost, and many other forums have had similar systems for years. Even reddit, which has a FoS friendly terms of service recently allowed blocking personal messages from harassers.

  28. Gary
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Very well said Jerry. People who keep quoting “but the first amendment only says….” are forgetting why it’s actually there in the first place.
    It’s because it’s a principle that is beneficial for society and freedom in general. Every platform that claims to be a general medium for communication should therefore aim for it.

  29. Posted July 21, 2016 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    This is complex enough for at least three completely separate discussions:

    (1) Is something like Twitter a public forum and if so, what follows?

    (2) The inconsistent, selective and thus unfair enforcement of civility by the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

    (3) Whether this is a free speech issue, and whether there is a slippery slope between banning somebody for e.g. vile insults and banning somebody for civil criticism.

    Focusing on the last of these, I am afraid I do not see it. It should be quite possible to implement rules that allow people to speak freely about whether even policies or religious beliefs make sense while penalising them in some way for invective and harassment, and only for the latter. That is what happens here, right? We commenters don’t get to attack each other personally, but I am still allowed to say that I disagree with the host on whether this is a free speech issue. And this is one of the things that make WEIT such a wonderful website. What is more, every day we have conversations where we manage to disagree with co-workers or friends, often over really important things, without hurling abuse in their faces. Where is the slippery slope?

    In my eyes the murkier issues are the first two, and I haven’t even really thought through the first one.

  30. Mike De Fleuriot
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    //If you don’t like what you read on Twitter, you can block the sender personally,//

    //If you don’t like what you read on Twitter, you can block the sender personally,//

    //If you don’t like what you read on Twitter, you can block the sender personally,//

    //If you don’t like what you read on Twitter, you can block the sender personally,//

    Or you can just subscribe to a blockbot.

  31. Cindy
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink
    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 22, 2016 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      One question, is that a genuine Jones tweet or one of the ones that were mentioned as being faked?

      (I don’t tweet, I can’t tell)


  32. Posted July 22, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    You are wrong about the criticism of Ghostbusters. Like 1% of it was sexist. The other 99% of it was fans of the orginal didn’t want to see it being tainted by the modern Hollywood processed reboot cash grab procedure. Also, for me personally, I could care less about a female cast, I honestly think it could work, I just don’t like 3/4 of the actresses that play the ghostbusters.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 22, 2016 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      I can understand that, and sci-fi/fantasy fans are notoriously finicky about remakes and what is ‘canon’. Heck, most of them don’t even like the first sequel of [name your franchise], which is inevitably ‘not as good as the original’. One can only conclude that what they want for a sequel is something entirely new but exactly like Episode One 😉

      But then what do I know, I even thought Alien vs Predator was not a bad movie 😉


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