Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones was driven from Twitter after spending Monday managing a ceaseless barrage of racist and misogynistic trolling. At the center of this was a well-known right wing figurehead, Milo Yiannopoulos, or @Nero on Twitter. He derided and misgendered Jones, and circulated doctored tweets about her until she quit Twitter in tears.
And then, late Tuesday night, Twitter banned Yiannopoulos from the site, permanently. The sudden backlash has everyone wondering: Now that he's been wiped off of his most effective soapbox, what's going to happen to his army of followers?
Who is Milo Yiannopoulos?
Milo Yiannopoulos is a conservative British journalist who developed a mainstream following in the wake of Gamergate. He took Gamergate seriously as a political ethos, documenting its activities and complaints meticulously, slowly becoming a hero of the movement.
As the Trump campaign gained steam, Yiannopoulos became a hero of white nationalists and anti-feminists, and leaned into the role of being the alt right's mainstream internet personality. He gave his followers permission to use the word "faggot" however they want, and said he wasn't racist because he had sex with black men. There is an endless litany of widely condemned behavior, like arriving at the scene of the Orlando massacre to give an anti-Islam speech and creating a scholarship just for white men.
Yiannopoulos' most recent endeavor is a series of talks called the "Dangerous Faggot" tour where he visits a college to give talks which mix provocations like "feminism is cancer" — a popular Milo-ism — with old conservative narratives about "black-on-black crime." Protesters routinely interrupt his lectures and he, in turn, derides them, citing the interruption as evidence that there is an authoritarian liberal agenda to silence him and his followers.
"We won't be silenced anymore," he often says.
This narrative-building is codified at the conservative news site Breitbart, where scores of his colleagues document each of these incidents.
These regular instigations developed a cult following for Yiannopoulos, and a reputation as a kind of millennial Ann Coulter for the 4chan crowd.
Twitter, until Tuesday night, was his most effective platform for rallying his followers and rapidly pushing out news stories by him and about him.
Twitter's harassment problem continues
Opponents of Yiannopoulos and the alt-right took to Twitter to celebrate his banning with the hashtag #NeroBannedParty.
But many aren't too quick to declare mission accomplished.
Twitter has a well-documented harassment problem, and some of Yiannopoulos' targets say that Twitter banning him for angering a celebrity is more about saving face in public than addressing the roots of Twitter's harassment issues.
"We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree," Twitter said in a statement to Buzzfeed. "We are 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."
In response to the ban, Yiannopoulos returned to his refrain about silencing conservative viewpoints.
"With the cowardly suspension of my account, Twitter has confirmed itself as a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives," Yianopoulos said in a comment to his own site.
Without more holistic action by Twitter, Yiannopoulos' followers still remain and are, at time of publication, still showing up in droves to taunt and jibe his opponents. The alt right has its origins in a nationalistic right-wing movement frustrated by a perceived effort to silence their racist and derogatory views under the mantle of "political correctness."
For now, his followers have a temporary solution: Physically stalk and harass Twitter employees.
We have reached out to Yiannopoulos and Twitter for comment, and will update this story if we hear back.