Twitter permanently suspended a number of user accounts Tuesday that were involved in a campaign of racial harassment aimed at Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, Reuters and other news outlets reported. Among the suspended accounts is that of incendiary right-wing pundit Milo Yiannopoulos, who reportedly spearheaded the coordinated assault.
Jones announced in a tweet early Tuesday morning that she was “leav[ing] Twitter … with tears and a very sad heart” after her account was inundated with pointedly racist diatribes (Jones is black). She had spent the day retweeting the most vicious of the insults, and later called out Twitter for what she described as its uneven history of addressing abuse between its users.
“I understand you got free speech I get it,” she wrote. “But there has to be some guidelines when you let spread like that.” The tweet prompted a response from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who invited her to send him a direct message about the issue.
Recode and other outlets report that the abuse came largely at the behest of Yiannopoulos, the tech editor of the conservative outlet Breitbart News, whose reputation as a troll on Twitter has long eclipsed his journalism. (In his tweets on Monday, he described Jones as “barely literate.”) The 32-year-old Brit, who calls himself the “most fabulous supervillain on the Internet,” is a minor celebrity in the American conservative movement — an outspoken Donald Trump supporter who has in the past railed against rape victims, feminism and Islam. He enjoyed an outspoken fan base on Twitter — he had 338,000 followers before his account was suspended, per Recode — many of whom reacted to his suspension with outrage. The hashtag #FreeMilo was trending in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
In a statement quoted by Reuters, Twitter said that it was “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.”