Yesterday, Breitbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter. The reason, ostensibly, was that he was targeting Leslie Jones, the actress in the recently released Ghostbusters reboot. It would probably be more accurate to say that it was “the last straw” from Twitter’s point of view given Milo’s engagement with Jones was relatively mild and no reasonable person would argue that Milo is responsible for the abuse his followers do. Twitter’s tolerance tends to be based on the politics of the user in question.
With that out of the way, there is no question whether Twitter, the company, has the right to run its service however it wants. If it wants to become the hub of social justice warriors to tweet 250 character virtue signals, they can do that. But here’s the rub: Twitter has repeatedly claimed it wants to become a universal messaging service – like a utility. You can’t be a universal messaging service if you’re kicking people off for wrong-speech.
I can say whatever I’d like on the Internet without once worrying whether Comcast or Verizon are going to cut off my service. Twitter, by contrast, not only engages in moderation but is frequently transparent in its politically selective enforcement. If they really wanted to solve this problem would be to provide more intelligent preferences to control who and how people can interact with each other (see every messaging service out there for examples).
The only realistic way Twitter becomes a viable business, and make no mistake, it’s not viable, is if it achieves its stated goal: a universal messaging service. It’s no where near that goal.
If Twitter wants to simply be a really piss poor BBS that’s certainly their prerogative. But for those who are smugly trying to chide the “freedom of speech” folks for not making the distinction between the private and the public sector, they might well be reminded that it was Twitter that set the proposition that it was the “free speech” platform that was destined to become a utility.
Inevitably, Twitter will go away. It’s architected (and thus costs to run) to be a universal messaging service but it’s execution is more like a bad subreddit. You can’t rely on a service provider who might capriciously end your service.