Twitter’s ban of Milo Yiannopolous, the self-proclaimed “most fabulous supervillain on the internet,” doesn’t appear to correlate with free speech crackdowns on college campuses. However, upon closer examination, it is not unreasonable to see a connection.
Yiannopolous was permanently banned from Twitter following comments made about “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones. Some of Yiannopolous’s followers attacked the actress with racial comments and the Breitbart editor’s account was deactivated.
In a statement to NPR, Twitter claims that Yiannopolous subjected other users to “targeted abuse.” Yiannopolous disagrees, viewing his ban as an obstruction of free speech.
“Twitter’s permanent suspension of my account makes a mockery of their claims to be a free speech platform,” Yiannopolous said.
He has since filed a Subject Access Data Request, which demands that Twitter provide him with all personal data, including information on the banned account, within 21 days, in compliance with European law.
On college campuses, controversies surrounding free speech have reached an all-time high. While social justice warriors advocate for safe spaces and trigger warnings, critics accuse colleges and universities of restricting freedom of speech for the sake of saving students from having their feelings hurt by “hate speech.”
However, as Yiannopolous told CNBC, “Who’s to say what’s a civil level of discourse? If Twitter wants to start regulating how we can speak, the tone in which we can have debates, the language we can use, it’s going to find that all of the interesting people on its network … are going to leave.”
Such is the problem with regulating free speech. There is no real way of determining what classifies as “hate speech” and what does not. In fact, due to the absence of the term “hate speech” in the First Amendment, it could be argued, as Steven Crowder, conservative radio show host, has done, that it does not even exist. Feelings are not an appropriate barometer for measuring how much free speech should be allowed.
When social media platforms censor their users and strip them of constitutional rights, it sends a message to millennials who are utilizing those platforms. These young people come to expect the same protection from colleges, growing angry when they hear speeches or opinions they don’t agree with, as seen at Cal State, Mizzou, and Seattle University’s Matteo Ricci College, to name a few.
Rather than coddling Generation Snowflake students, these institutions that assist in ushering teenagers into adulthood should consider breaking the social media trend and teaching students that not being offended is not a constitutional right in this country.