Op-ed: Twitter banned Milo to stay attractive to film studio advertisers

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Twitter banned notoriously controversial journalist Milo Yiannopolous from their service all together the other day, and the entire internet exploded. Think pieces and reports ranged in tone from Nelson's fingerpointing "Ha Ha", to a very serious furrowing of brows regarding the impact on journalism. The Observer even went so far as to call it Stalinesque: "Twitter’s Stalinist Unpersoning of Gay Provocateur Milo Yiannopolous", while dubbing Milo an ubertroll for good measure. Twitter didn't comment directly on Milo's account or actions, but made a statement reminding of the bannable offenses including 'engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.'

It's not at all unexepected that Milo would eventually get kicked off twitter, we've already discussed the arbitrary approach to community moderation by the service in "The trouble with Twitter. Trolls, Verifications removed & Stock failing". Twitter Verifications could seemingly be bought for $60,000 a year in advertising, unless of course you are a celebrity or a journalist at the right publication as they get verified for free - all depending on if anyone at Twitter knew who you were, of course. This explains why world famous bands would not be verified, while California indie bands and interns at Buzzfeed would be. Hollywood celebrities would be verified before they even signed up, while established journalists with several books authored, would never be verified. All of this is about to end, they say, as Twitter just announced a application process for verified accounts. This is how it used to work, almost ten years ago, but Twitter had to take down the application process then after overwhelming demand.

So, what happened? Milo wrote a review of Ghostbusters - the Cliff notes is "didn't like it" - and this evolved into a twitter spat with Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. After enduring a day of harassing tweets - not from Milo - Leslie Jones left Twitter because of insults and racism. Leslie Jones has previously stated that she retweets dumb people, basically siccing her followers on them, but when Milo's followers reply to her she "leaves Twitter with a sad heart."

This is a problem for Twitter. There's an actual method to their madness, when they Verify the hip kids they know, and celebrities of the selfie generation, they grew their user base. Now they're trying to make money off this platform, and claim that new movie marketing research reveals Twitter Ads deliver increased ticket sales. If Twitter increases ticket sales whilst driving away movie stars who hear about bad reviews via their service.... Well, the solution is obviously to kick the reviewer off the system.

Whether it’s the first day of filming or the red carpet premiere, Twitter is now a key part of the marketing mix for movies. In 2015, there were more than 400 films with an official Twitter handle, from studio blockbusters like “The Martian” (@MartianMovie) to indie darlings like “The Danish Girl” (@DanishGirlMov). Even more eye-opening is the fact that in 2015 we saw over 165 million movie-related Tweets globally.

Using Ghostbusters as an example in their own post about this, Twitter clearly knows who is paying their rent. Hint: it's not Milo.

Remember Twitter when it was lauded as a communications tool that helped the Arab spring and helped people spread news during natural disasters? Pepperidge Farm, er, I mean Wikileaks remembers, and they are not too happy about what they see as "Cyber feudalism."

Twitter is a privately owned company though, a platform for communication where the providers of the service can say "no shirts, no shoes, and no right wing provocateurs" if they want to. After all, they banned Chuck C. Johnson over a year ago and the service is still ticking along, albeit with a stock down at 18.39USD (Price decrease 0.17 (0.92% - sell). The problem is once again that by using a centralised service, said service will eventually wander down the advertising road. Twitter may be sued for letting ISIS use it for terrorist communication & propaganda, while also facing lawsuits for copyright infringement, but when stock prices keeps falling like lead ballons you know their main focus will be on keeping those potential advertisers happy. After all twitter's stock value plunged $165 million at the start of the year, Twitter still needs to find a way to turn profit, and you dear users who hand your content away in the form of jokes, attention, chatter, and clicks are the product they're selling.


Update - you'll be pleased to know that, to quote Yahoo News, "Leslie Jones makes triumphant return to Twitter after vanquishing racist trolls", where her most recent retweet is currently the quote "don't try and explain yourself to idiots you're not the fuckface whisperer."

Comments (1)

  • Dabitch's picture
    Dabitch

    Another side-effect of Twitter is that people won't click through to see it's an op-ed anymore, so now we apparently have to put it in the title.... Attempts are made to discuss this with me on twitter, ironically.

    Jul 22, 2016

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Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm after growing up in Kiruna, Raleigh and Jiddah.