Milo Yiannopoulos, he of the removed verification check on Twitter, brought his argument that social media companies are limiting free speech directly to the White House by crashing a press briefing. The Breitbart writer was once verified on Twitter, and apparently he relished that shiny blue check so much that once it was taken away he just couldn’t get over the pain. His check was removed for attacking and insulting a variety of people and groups on the social media platform, yet Milo seems to misunderstand his rights as a user on Twitter.
Since Twitter’s a private company, they are only held to their internal standards as long as they are not breaking laws. As the common refrain goes, free speech means you can say whatever you want but not that you are free from any consequences for doing so. His argument is that Twitter and Facebook are purposely punishing more conservative users or suspending their accounts and that the White House should be taking action against these biases. Unfortunately for Yiannopoulos and all other lovers of drama, he pleaded his case not to President Obama but to press secretary Josh Earnest as the President was unavailable during this particular briefing. Mediaite has all the details of the hearing, including Milo’s main argument:
Yiannopolous began by quoting Reddit founder Aaron Schwartz, who argued that the importance of free speech also extended to social media sites, and brought up Obama’s previous statements denouncing university safe spaces and the coddling of college students.
Because when you can make an argument by using quotes from the founder of an online forum known for pushing the boundaries on acceptable free speech guidelines, you go for it. The argument did not go particularly well for Milo, as Earnest couldn’t give him a clear answer on whether the trend of suspending conservative accounts is actually illegal or just frowned upon.
Earnest responded that the president believed the success of companies like Twitter and Facebook were “predicated on the idea of freedom of expression… they give people an opportunity to express themselves in ways that we didn’t previously even imagined.”
The press secretary suggested that Yiannopoulos could take his issues up in a legal case of his own, although starting a legal batter with Twitter over the removal of a verified check hits that sweet spot between crazy and an absolute waste of time. Without a definitive answer here on what action, if any, the White House could take on behalf of suspended accounts, it looks like Milo will have to continue mourning his check-less account through tweets and public comments.