Conservative lightning rod Milo Yiannopoulos was in high spirits late Tuesday night just hours after he learned that he had been permanently banned from Twitter.
“Are you kidding? This is the most gigantic possible gift!” the Breitbart News senior editor said by phone from Cleveland, where he was attending the Republican National Convention. He contended that his ban was politically motivated and represents a threat to free speech.
Twitter gave Yiannopoulos the boot on Tuesday following critical comments he made to actress Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the new “Ghostbusters” movie. He has been critical of the Sony release — which is a female-centric remake of the 1984 comedy — and was one of many who sent Jones, who is a black woman, negative tweets.
Yiannopoulos, who hails from Britain and is openly gay, had amassed a Twitter audience of close to 338,000 followers. Attempts to access his feed on Tuesday resulted in an “error” message: “The account you are trying to view has been suspended.”
A Twitter screenshot of the suspension notice published by Breitbart informs Yiannopoulos that he was banned “for repeated violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically our rules prohibiting participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals."
His ban gave rise to the hashtag #FreeMilo, which rose to the No. 1 trending topic spot on Twitter on Tuesday night.
When asked if his comments about Jones qualified as harassment, he replied, “Of course not, and it’s ridiculous to suggest that it is."
“I’m not responsible for the conduct of millions of people on Twitter,” he said.
In one tweet, Yiannopoulos mocked Jones’ diction and in another disparaged her looks. "I made that joke at my own expense,” he said.
Jones said on Twitter that the barrage of criticism has left her with “tears and a sad heart.”
Yiannopoulos got in trouble with Twitter last year when he used his account to claim that he was the new “social justice editor” of Buzzfeed.
The stunt got him temporarily suspended from the platform and eventually cost him his Twitter verification — the blue check mark that appears next to an account name.
Yiannopoulos sees his permanent ban as a political move by Twitter.
“There’s a systemic bias against conservatives and libertarians [on Twitter],” he said. “The progressive press is going to take their side, dishonestly suggesting that I was making life difficult for a black woman."
He added: “This is a political decision. With this they are sending a message to conservatives that they’re not welcome on Twitter.”
In the past, Yiannopoulos has publicly criticized Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, claiming that the company has been sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement, even when factions of the movement have called for violence against police officers.
“He’s made a decision ... that he’s going to use [Twitter] as political weaponry during the election,” said Yiannopoulos.
A Twitter representative said in a statement Wednesday: “People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. 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.”
The statement continued: “Over the past 48 hours in particular, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of accounts violating these policies and have taken enforcement actions against these accounts, ranging from warnings that also require the deletion of tweets violating our policies to permanent suspension.”
Yiannopoulos has been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump and a vehement critic of third-wave feminism. On Tuesday evening, the provocateur was scheduled to appear at a Gays for Trump party at the Republican National Convention.
When asked if he deliberately tried to get himself banned from Twitter, Yiannopoulos replied, “No, I didn’t. But I’m not going to pretend I’m upset. It has served me brilliantly. And this has done me no harm — it has turned me into a free speech martyr.”
2:55 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Twitter.
This article was originally published at 8:10 a.m.