Bullied Bullies: Orchestrating Harassment Isn’t Expressing an Idea

I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.

Free Speech by Randall Munroe (http://xkcd.com) Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License. (Click to embiggen)

So, hoards of internet trolls started sending extremely racist and often threatening messages to actress Leslie Jones this weekend, and instead of blocking them, she took a stand: Leslie Jones’ Tweets on Monday Night Were a Powerful Response to an Insane Torrent of Hate. It wasn’t a random hoard of trolls, though. They were encouraged by a notorious troll who is also a writer for Breitbart: Hundreds of Twitter users, encouraged by Yiannopoulos, sent racist, sexist and degrading tweets targeting Jones, a female black comedian and a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.”

Side note: but I repeat myself; Breitbart is an organized swarm of internet trolls, scum, and clickbait villains masquerading as a news site.

People have been blocking, reporting, and complaining for years about Milo harassing people and openly encouraging his hundreds of thousands of followers to send rape threats, death threats, racist attacks, misogynist attacks, and homophobic attacks at various people on social media. His actions have long been clear and blatant violations of Twitter’s anti-harassment policies. He and most of his followers should have been banned from Twitter long ago.

Unfortunately, the company almost never enforces its anti-harassment policies—especially against people like Yiannopoulos—for a very cynical reason. The harassment sprees that he unleashes result in hundreds or even thousands of his followers creating new accounts to continue their harassment when they find their old accounts have been blocked by their targets. This creates the illusion that new people are signing up for Twitter, when it is actually stalkers and harassers and trolls adding secondary accounts. So allowing the harassers to keep abusing people is part of their business model. Which is shameful.

I happen to think that if Twitter vigorously enforced its policies, that the stalking and harassing would go way down and a lot of people who have abandoned or deleted their old twitter accounts because they got harassed and threatened constantly (usually for the crime of being a woman who expressed an opinion) would come back. Twitter would become fun again. That’s a business model not to be ashamed of.

But finally, and it is definitely a deserved use of finally, Twitter has taken action: Twitter finally bans Milo Yiannopoulos, one of its most notorious trolls.

And people are coming out to defend him, claiming this is an assault of free speech. Which it isn’t, at all. Randall Munroe, the cartoonist who does xkcd including the comic I include above, said this in the alt-text of that Free Speech cartoon: “I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you’re saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it’s not literally illegal to express.”

Anyway, no, Milo was not banned for expressing an opinion. No, Milo was not banned because he was conservative. No, this is not an assault on free speech. And no, people who complain about rape threates, death threats, and vile racist attacks are not the internet trolls—neither are we over sensitive.

You know what’s over sensitive? Thinking that not being allowed to bully someone somehow makes you, the bully, a victim.

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. I publish an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live in Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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