#FreeMilo Reveals Many First Amendment Defenders Don't Understand Freedom of Speech

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

After Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos rallied the Twitter community to engage in a campaign of racial harassment against Saturday Night Live cast member and Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, targeted abuse that prompted her to leave Twitter, he suffered the consequences. 

Twitter kicked him off. 

"People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter," a Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed. "But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others."

Yiannopoulos and his supporters don't see it that way. "This is the beginning of the end for Twitter," Yiannopoulos told the New York Times on Tuesday. "Some people are going to find this perfectly acceptable. Anyone who believes in free speech or is a conservative certainly will not." Thus the hashtag #FreeMilo began making the Twitter rounds in Yiannopoulos' defense, blustering about the First Amendment. 

Instead of making his case, it's proved only one thing: Way too many conservatives don't understand what free speech actually is.

Free speech defined as such: the freedom to express beliefs or ideas without unwarranted government restriction. 

Twitter is not the government. 

It has terms and conditions; Yiannopoulos broke them. No, Twitter is not particularly good at dealing with harassment, but that doesn't guarantee that people who continue to hurl racial slurs at other users, as Yiannopoulos did, who incite others to do the same, won't get blocked from the platform. 

The racist alt-right, for which Yiannopoulos is a poster boy, likes to use free speech to defend hate speech. 

Thus the #FreeMilo campaign, which — in true alt-right fashion — is loudly protesting Yiannopoulos' banishment with a collection of asinine arguments. 

A popular one: If terrorists get Twitter accounts, so should Yiannopoulos. Here's the thing: Twitter does go after terrorist accounts. The difficult thing about combatting the social media presence of ISIS, for example, is that one account is shut down and another pops up in its place. It's entirely possible that Yiannopoulos will pop up under a different name too.

Which necessitates restating this fact: Twitter has terms and conditions, which Yiannopoulos violated. Repeatedly.

Looking to expose leftist hypocrisy, some users pointed out that Yiannopoulos is gay, as if that had anything to do with the fact that he was rallying his followers to bombard a stranger with hate speech.

To be clear: Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter for his habitual racist harassment. Not because he is gay. 

Disagreeing with the existence of an actress on the basis of her skin color is the necessary clarification of that point.

Because many of the hashtags are attached to tweets suggesting this is a case of reverse racism. 

The people who've sent those tweets seem to have forgotten that Jones' tweets, when offensive to them as white people, are provoked by the racial discrimination she faces IRL and online, every single day. White people do not get trolled relentlessly for the color of their skin. Their race is their advantage. Reverse racism — not a thing.

But really, it all comes down to this: You can voice your opinions as loudly as you want. The government can't necessarily take action, but other people can. 


The #FreeMilo campaigners insist they're not being racist; they're free to say whatever they please, because of First Amendment rights. Those same rights mean people who disagree are free to shout them down. It's a two-way street, in essence. 

Read more:
Inside 8chan's /pol/, the Far-Right Forum Where Trump's Star of David Meme First Spread
(((Echoes))) Exposed: The Secret Symbol Neo-Nazis Use to Target Jews Online
How Conservative Trolls Turned the Rare Pepe Meme Into a Virulent Racist

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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