Silicon Valley appears to have blown up Milo Yiannopoulos’s business model.The disgraced right-wing troll is complaining that the major social media companies have effectively cut off his alt-right audience — and crushed his ability to make a decent living.The former Breitbart tech writer shared the complaints on Telegram, a messaging app where some alt-right allies have set up shop after getting the boot by larger tech platforms. Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter in 2016 for directing racist abuse at the comedian Leslie Jones, losing nearly 400,000 followers. He was banned from Facebook in May.
“I spent years growing and developing and investing in my fan base, and they just took it away in a flash,” wrote Yiannopoulos, who’s previously rubbed shoulders with neo-Nazis and white nationalists. “It’s nice to have a little private chat with my gold star homies but I can’t make a career out of a handful of people like that. I can’t put food on the table this way.”
The provocateur made no mention of the harassment that landed him in social media jail. Nor did he touch on being forced out of Breitbart the following year, after he made comments that seemed to endorse pedophilia.While Telegram allows Yiannopoulos to share such important commentary with more than 19,000 followers directly, it does not offer the mass reach of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The same goes for Gab and other social networks set up in protest of Big Tech’s increasingly aggressive content-moderation efforts.“I can’t find anyone who’s managing to grow a really big channel here,” wrote Yiannopoulos, whose Telegram posts typically reach around 2,000 pairs of eyeballs. “Everyone is hitting a wall. There’s no future to Telegram for social media refugees if this is the best it gets.”
The rant offers some hope to progressive activists who’ve pushed tech companies to take a harder line against users who traffic in hate speech. A gaggle of right-wing commentators turned such incendiary content into cold hard cash, parlaying engaged social media audiences into speaking gigs, book deals, or direct contributions from fans through services like Patreon.
Efforts to regulate that cottage industry have backfired in some cases. In June, YouTube’s bungled demonetization of a channel run by the conservative comedian Steven Crowder, who obsessively bullied Vox journalist Carlos Maza, drew calls of censorship from across right-wing political media. The outcry helped Crowder amass legions of new followers and paying subscribers.
The more comprehensive deplatforming of Yiannopoulos, however, appears to have torpedoed the economics driving his whole operation. And it’s possible he may not be the only one. The pro-Trump con artist Jacob Wohl, who was banned from Twitter for operating fake accounts earlier this year, re-shared the thread with a simple comment, “I agree with all of this.”Yiannopoulos laid blame not only on Big Tech’s countermeasures but also the pro-Trump internet’s inability to successfully strike back.“I’m clinging on for dear life. And I’ll never give up,” said Yiannopoulos, who did not immediately respond to VICE News’ direct message seeking comment. “But holy fucking hell the base in America SUCKS. Frankly they deserve to lose their country and if by some miracle we manage to save it, it’ll be no thanks whatsoever to voters, readers, subscribers and ENTIRELY thanks to the few brave souls battling on the front lines, beyond all reason and hope.“It’s years too late,” he added. “The time to act was when I got booted off Twitter. Nobody did.”Cover: Parade Grand Marshall Milo Yiannopoulos is seen at the Boston Straight Pride Parade and Rally organized by Super Happy Fun America on August 31, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)