Comment Twitter this week permanently banned a high-profile self-proclaimed troll, marking a possible sea-change in how the social network tackles its worst users.
Baffling web celeb Milo Yiannopoulos was previously temporarily suspended from the service and earlier this year had his "verified" status revoked.
Then after Yiannopoulos pilloried actress Leslie Jones on Monday, hundreds of his followers buried the Ghostbusters star with waves of abusive messages, driving her off the microblogging platform. Within hours, his @nero Twitter account was disabled and Twitter informed the gadfly he was permanently banned from the service. He had a few hundred thousand or so followers at the time.
"Hello," read a message that appeared on Yiannopoulos' phone that he later posted online.
Your account has been permanently suspended for repeated violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically our rules prohibiting participating in or inciting abuse of individuals. Given that you have previously received repeated warnings for similar violations, your account will not be restored – Twitter
It is not the first time Twitter has permanently suspended a well-known user. Last year, blogger and troll Charles Johnson was cut off after asking for donations to help "take out" a Black Lives Matter activist. Prior to that, Johnson had repeatedly made false allegations against individuals, particularly in the media, as a way to draw attention to himself.
But the decision to permanently ban the high-profile Yiannopoulos from the service represents a clear intention on Twitter's part to finally tackle its negative reputation as a place where abuse is rife and users are not held accountable despite firm anti-abuse policies.
Thanks in large part to his trolling of individuals, relentless self-promotion, and determined efforts to associate himself with current events through social media and right-wing news website Breitbart, where he is technology editor, Yiannopoulos built a healthy following on his Twitter account.
He then used that notoriety to confront others, knowing he could rely on his followers to overwhelm and bully any individuals he picked fights with.
And so it was with Leslie Jones, a black actress in the new Ghostbusters movie – who was inundated with racist abuse by Yiannopoulos' followers after he published an unpleasant review of the film.
"What we are left with is a movie to help lonely middle-aged women feel better about themselves after being left on the shelf," he wrote in part. "It's an overpriced self-esteem device for women betrayed by the lies of third-wave feminism."
When Jones complained about the personal abuse she was getting, Yiannopoulos accused her of "playing the victim." When she replied and her response included typos, he mocked her: "Barely literate. America needs better schools!"
Meanwhile, his followers joined in, sending Jones pictures of apes as well as countless aggressive and offensive messages, some of which she retweeted in an effort to shine a light on the issue. Yiannopoulos continued baiting Jones – reportedly retweeting screenshots of homophobic and racist tweets seemingly posted by Jones that turned out to be fake – until she blocked him and reported the @nero account.
Before finally signing off – and seemingly leaving Twitter – Jones complained that Twitter was doing nothing about the abuse, leaving her feeling isolated.
"Twitter I understand you got free speech I get it. But there has to be some guidelines when you let spread like that. You can see on the Profiles that some of these people are crazy sick. It's not enough to freeze Acct. They should be reported," she tweeted.