So farewell then, Martin Shkreli; one of the Internet’s most prodigious irritants has been digitally laid to rest by having his Twitter account suspended.
He has followed in the footsteps of his friend Milo Yiannopoulos, though where the Breitbart Tech editor famously fell by leading an online charge against a Hollywood actress, “pharma-bro” Shkreli was ejected from the airlock for the less-glamorous crime of poking fun at a journalist.
Yiannopoulos and Shkreli have both trolled plenty of people, but while the former always seemed to do it for the adoration of his fans, the latter never courted followers; he just seemed to be in it for his own amusement.
Which is useful, because no one else found him particularly funny. Even Donald Trump has called him a “spoiled brat”.
Yet Shkreli doesn’t come out of this looking like a spoiled brat; that label can instead be given to the good folks at Twitter and those who complained that what Shkreli was doing to journalist Lauren Duca was “targeted harassment”.
Was it targeted? Well, obviously. Was it harassment? Give me a break.
Lauren Duca is clearly no shrinking violet: she posted Shkreli’s messages to her publicly, which should have been all the action she needed to take.
Shkreli’s response, to Photoshop himself into a picture of her and her husband, was weird, but ultimately harmless. So why did she need to call on Jack Dorsey to ride in on a white horse and save her from it?
The internet has spawned a culture that sees thousands upon thousands of memes and jokes poured into it every day from all sorts of people.
This was merely another one, and in a different context might even have been funny.
Banning the perpetrator of just one bad joke because of who he is was a massive over-reaction.
All this does is two things. Once again, a left-wing commentator has played up to the “snowflake” tag they should be trying so hard to shake, by calling on a powerful body to censor someone they disagree with.
In fact, it isn’t so much that Duca and Twitter disagree with Shkreli per se; they just plain don’t like him, and have found a flimsy excuse to have him removed. The fact that he is friends with Yiannopoulos only makes this ban look more petty.
Of course, Twitter are a company, not a public resource, so they can do what they wish, but it is unlikely their shareholders will take kindly to the idea of a social media platform famed for banning people the CEO has a grudge against, like a dictator silencing his critics. If this continues, how long before people start to look elsewhere?
What’s more, Twitter clearly haven’t learned their lesson on censorship from the Yiannopoulos affair; banning well-known people from your platform elevates their public profile, the opposite of what they want to achieve.
Shkreli’s spat with Duca wasn’t big news before he was banned, but now everyone knows what happened, and what Twitter’s response to it was.
Martin Shkreli isn’t trying to cultivate a popular public image. He doesn’t seem the sort to care that much.
Yet this action from Twitter is yet another indication that they are not really interested in allowing people they have taken against to speak freely.
When the whole purpose of your platform is to allow people to communicate and share news, views and ideas, that’s not exactly promising.