Following a permanent suspension from Twitter, conservative pundit Milo Yiannopoulos has filed a series of data requests with the social networking company demanding that they turn over all of his personal data.
The tech editor of the conservative news site Breitbert says he is entitled to this information under British and Irish law. The move is part of his effort have his access to Twitter restored by demonstrating that his removal was driven by politics rather than violations of user policy.
Yiannopoulos had developed a reputation as one the internet’s most notorious right-wing voices, with many critics labeling him a “troll” for his comments regarding women and minorities.
On July 20, his @Nero Twitter account with 350,000 followers was suspended, with Twitter saying he had repeatedly harassed an individual in violation of its terms of services. That person was mostly likely actress Leslie Jones, who was starring in the remake of “Ghostbusters.”
But with the political season in high swing in the U.S., Yiannopoulos believes he was the victim of politics. And he wants access to his data to prove that.
“I want Twitter to release all the information they hold on me, as they are required to do by European law, because I believe that the company’s decision to suspend me was fueled by politics and has nothing to do with ‘abuse’ or ‘harassment’ as they disingenuously claim,” he wrote in an email to VentureBeat. “I don’t think Twitter will want to release its internal communications about me, do you?”
A spokesperson for Twitter said the company had no comment.
Twitter is walking a tricky line as it tries to navigate how to handle complaints about harassment on its platform. The company has been proudly flying the free speech flag for years. But that has allowed a culture of abusive behavior to take root and flourish on Twitter. The company continues to have a hard time striking a better balance between the two.
At the same time, in its battle with British-based Yiannopoulos, Twitter finds itself taking on someone backed by a website whose founder, Steve Bannon, is now helping to run the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
With all this in the background, Yiannopoulos has not gone away quietly.
On July 25, Yiannopoulos sent a letter to Twitter’s Irish offices, demanding “a copy of any information you keep about me, on computer or in manual form in relation to me.” He added: “Be under no illusion, should you fail to comply with this request in a timely manner I will escalate this matter to the Data Protection Commissioner for Ireland and, if necessary, the courts. I have provided all of the information required to identify me for this request and I will take a very dim view on any attempts by you to prevaricate or delay in this request on any spurious basis.”
Twitter apparently turned down this request, claiming Yiannopoulos was a U.S. resident and therefore outside the scope of EU data laws. Today, Yiannopoulos filed an appeal of this decision, stating that he is quite clearly a resident of the U.K.
“You instead attempted to delay the request by claiming I am outside the scope of your obligations as I am a resident of the United States,” he wrote. “This is clearly not true on its face based on a cursory review of the original subject access request which was made from a UK address, where I reside.”
In addition, he filed a second request for his Twitter data, this time citing U.K. data laws. While he waits for a response, Yiannopoulos said he is willing to go to great lengths to make his case and get his Twitter account back.
“Either way, I want my account back and the Subject Access Data Request is just the first wave of action from me,” he wrote in an email. “I will do whatever is necessary to force Twitter to disclose the real reason they stripped my verification check and then suspended my account and I will use all of the considerable resources at my disposal to get my account restored.”
Here is a copy of his July letter to Twitter:
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