Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial writer working for the right-wing online tabloid Breitbart, had the verified status of his Twitter account revoked by the social network for unspecified rules violations.
Yiannopoulos is one of the most visible supporters of the Gamergate movement, and at the time of writing, has 141,000 followers. The writer, whose handle on Twitter is @Nero, is still on the website, minus the verified status represented by a blue checkmark beside the user's account name.
"Note that application of the verification badge is done at will and Twitter reserves the right to remove the badge in the instance of policy violations," Twitter said in a message to Yiannopoulos regarding the removal of his Twitter account's verified status. The social network, however, did not disclose the exact reason why such an action was done, only stating that Yiannopoulos should review the rules of Twitter as more violations could lead to a permanent suspension of his account.
I've been sat on the naughty table! pic.twitter.com/2ppJ3X4J62
— Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) January 8, 2016
"The primary purpose of verification is to combat impersonation," wrote Yiannopoulos in an email to BuzzFeed News.
"I can't think of anyone on the Internet more impersonated (whether out of affection or otherwise) than me," he added.
Yiannopoulos is widely impersonated on the social media platform, and the removal of his verified status will make it hard for him to distribute his message on Twitter and even harder for followers to determine who's the real Milo Yiannopoulos among all the impersonators on the website.
While the exact reason for the removal of Yiannopoulos' verified status on Twitter remains unclear, Twitter head of commerce Nathan Hubbard suggested that it could be due to a tweet by the writer that contains the eye-catching phrase "You deserve to be harassed."
Hubbard, who tweeted his thoughts, gave the disclaimer that he was not speaking on behalf of Twitter. The social media company, on the other hand, declined to comment on the matter, citing its policy of not issuing a comment regarding individual accounts on the platform. However, Twitter did confirm that authenticity of the message that notified Yiannopoulos of the revocation of his verified status.
According to Yiannopoulos, however, the tweet that was posted by Hubbard was a joke with his friends. While that specific tweet could have had no actual intentions of harassment, there are still several instances when the controversial writer veered dangerously close to violations against Twitter's code of conduct. Such tweets were pointed out by news website Re/code, but Yiannopoulos responded by stating that the tweets were either a joke or that the website was accusing him of a crime.
"I think this is the first step to getting me off the platform," Yiannopoulos said to CNNMoney, claiming that ridicule and criticism was being rebranded as abuse and harassment. He said that he even reached out Twitter twice to ask for an explanation, but the social media company has not responded.
"They don't like the jokes I make so they're coming at me," he added, claiming that he did not know the exact cause for his offense against Twitter. "I'm a provocateur, a satirist."
The failure of Twitter to disclose the reason for the removal of the verified status of Yiannopoulos' account has given rise to criticism from other users on the platform, including investor Jason Calacanis.
"Twitter policing speech is the beginning of the end of the platform," Calacanis said within a series of tweets that criticized the move by Twitter.
3/Twitter policing speech is the beginning of the end of the platform; 'word policing' will result in exponential trolling// cat & mouse — jason (@Jason) January 9, 2016
The removal of the verified status of his Twitter account, however, if it was meant to marginalize or delegitimize Yiannopoulos, was a wrong thing to do, according to the writer.
Yiannopoulos said that Twitter may have thought that he would be of less drama than outright banning him from the platform, but the move has actually increased his number of followers and has led to numerous speaking requests.
The removal of the verified status of his Twitter account has been turning Yiannopoulos into a free speech martyr, according to him.