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twitter bans professional troll @nero following leslie jones abuse

Right-wing Breitbart commentator Milo Yiannopoulos helped spur the barrage of racist and sexist abuse that eventually forced the 'Ghostbusters' actress off Twitter.

by Hannah Ongley
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Jul 20 2016, 4:57pm

@lesdogggg

Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones has sparked quite the conversation about Twitter's troll problem since Monday night, when she was basically forced off the site following a relentless bombardment of racist and sexist abuse. One of the biggest criticisms of Twitter has been that it offers users little protection from anonymous trolls, as any woman with an account will be aware. 

While the service failed to spare Jones from weeks of abuse that seemed to worsen by the minute, it has now taken a (small) step in the right direction. This morning Twitter permanently banned conservative Breitbart commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, aka @Nero, a bitter manbaby who was widely known to be one of the service's worst offenders. Yiannopoulos was also responsible for directing much of the abuse to Jones' account. Since the Ghostbusters remake was announced, many men have been nothing short of livid about the fact that a) all four leads are female, and b) one of them is black, and Yiannopoulos did little to quell the vitriol with a "review" of the film titled "Teenage Boys With Tits: Here's My Problem With Ghostbusters." Referring to Jones' character, he wrote, "Patty is the worst of the lot. The actress is spectacularly unappealing, even relative to the rest of the odious cast."

Following the ban of Yiannopoulos, a Twitter spokesman said in a statement, "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 spokesman did not mention Jones directly, but added, "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."

The decision, while commendable, still fails to grant users the power to block extensive abuse. Last year Lena Dunham revealed that she tweets through an assistant, unable to deal with the barrage of verbal abuse and body-shaming comments that she faces every time she logs on. In April the service announced it was making it easier to target trolls by allowing users to flag multiple tweets in one report, giving users the ability to demonstrate the full extent of the harassment. Another problem is that social media censorship isn't black and white. While Jones was left to deal with the racist trolls, Instagram wasted no time in deleting the comparatively innocuous snake emojis from Taylor Swift's page in the wake of the "Famous" phone call leak. Hopefully this is all the more reason for platforms to put the power in the hands of those being targeted. 

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Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Instagram