While hardly considered an “alt-right” personality (despite his professed support of Donald Trump), Martin Shkreli today encountered the full fury of the Jack Dorsey social media apparatus scorned, when his Twitter account was suspended. The suspension, reported first by The Verge, is allegedly in retaliation for Shkreli’s “targeted harassment” against freelance reporter Lauren Duca.
As Verge notes, Duca had recently made the media spotlight after penning a Teen Vogue essay titled “Trump is Gaslighting America” which went viral because, ostensibly, Teen Vogue is one of the few media outlets in the US not considered “fake news” by either part of the ideological divide. She was subsequently invited to a face-off with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. That clip in turn also went viral due to Carlson’s statement that Duca should stop talking about politics and “stick to thigh-high boots.” Following her media appearances, Shkreli, a professed Trump supporter, has decided to troll her.
The (sexual) tension between the two escalated last week when Duca tweeted a screenshot of a direct message from Shkreli, who in 2015 was briefly described as “the world’s most hated man” after hiking the price on an anti-parasitic drug 56 times (before it emerged that virtually every other pharma company does the same if to a slighly less shocking extent), refusing to answer questions about alleged fraud, getting arrested on charges of securities fraud (he remains free on $5 million bail), and asking celebs to listen to a rare Wu-Tang Clan album with him.
In his message he asked her if she wanted to be his date to President-elect Trump’s inauguration. Her response: “I would rather eat my own organs.”
I would rather eat my own organs pic.twitter.com/IgeCRZqk8w
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 5, 2017
Following the exchange, Shkreli added a line to his Twitter bio saying he had “a small crush on @laurenduca.” He also changed his profile image to a doctored photo of Duca and her husband, swapping his face into the image. He changed his banner to a collage of photos of Duca, overlaid with lyrics from John Michael Montgomery’s 1994 single “I Swear.” Stepping up his trolling game, Shrekli also tweeted that he had purchased the domain name “marrymelauren.com.” Shkreli’s followers then joined in, tweeting more Photoshops of Shkreli with Duca.
— William S. (@SailorsCapital) January 8, 2017
Speaking to The Verge prior to his Twitter suspension, Shkreli said he didn’t see his actions as harassment and wouldn’t consider them to be “against Duca’s will” because she hadn’t responded to any messages from him or told him to stop. He said he thought the Photoshop images were similar to those someone would make of “Justin Bieber or any other celebrity.”
Duca’s reaction, however, was less sanguine and at 10:55am she tweeted Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking “How is this allowed”
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 8, 2017
By 1:00pm Eastern, Shrekli’s account had been suspended.
Previously, Twitter made headlines in July 2016 when it permanently banned Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos after what Twitter dubbed targeted harassment against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. Dorsey responded directly to a tweet from Jones at the time.
Verge’s conclusion: “if you don’t want to be harassed on Twitter’s platform you can always hope things get bad enough (or you’re famous enough) that you can get the CEO’s ear.”
In early December, shortly after a purge of dozens of “alt-right” Twitter accounts, Slate reported that Twitter may even consider banning none other than the Donald Trump:
Asked whether Twitter would ever consider banning key government officials or even the president himself, a company spokesperson responded via email: “The Twitter Rules prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse, and we will take action on accounts violating those policies.” Pressed on whether that meant that, hypothetically, Trump himself could be suspended were he to violate those policies, a spokesperson confirmed: “The Twitter Rules apply to all accounts, including verified accounts.”
With Twitter discourse, both political and mundane, becoming increasingly charged, we expect many more outspoken voices to be unexpectedly muted in months ahead.