Twitter Suspends ‘Pharma Bro’ Shkreli for Harassment

  • Twitter introduced new tools to curb abuse last year
  • Shkreli faces federal charges over defrauding investors

Martin Shkreli.

Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

Twitter Inc. suspended the account of Martin Shkreli after the brash former pharmaceutical executive harassed a female reporter online, the latest high-profile case of abuse on the social media service.

Over the past few days, freelance reporter Lauren Duca posted about several unwanted digital advances by Shkreli, the former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, including a message in which Shkreli invited her to the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. Unbowed, Shkreli proceeded to post about Duca publicly, prompting her to ask Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to intervene on Sunday.

“The Twitter Rules prohibit targeted harassment, and we will take action on accounts violating those policies,” a Twitter spokesman said in a statement Sunday. The rules allow Shkreli to appeal his suspension, but he would have to make changes to his account before being reinstated. Shkreli declined to comment via e-mail.

Shkreli targeted Duca after she wrote that Trump was undermining civil rights and manipulating Americans in an essay for Teen Vogue. The piece landed her on a few cable TV news programs. Shkreli endorsed Trump last March, and released snippets of an unreleased Wu-Tang Clan album to celebrate Trump’s victory in November.

Twitter has struggled to curb harassment on its service for years. Though the service enabled millions of people living under repressive regimes to report abuse and organize, it has also empowered some users to hurl repugnant tweets at others.

Leslie Jones, a cast member of “Saturday Night Live,” briefly quit Twitter because she grew weary of the abuse, and only rejoined after Dorsey intervened. Twitter banned Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor at Breitbart News who led the campaign against Jones.

Over the years, harassment on Twitter has morphed from a distraction into a full-fledged business problem. Walt Disney Co. is said to have ended its pursuit of the social media company at least in part because the home of Mickey Mouse feared the abuse would tarnish its kid-friendly image. Late last year, Twitter introduced new tools to help users protect themselves, and it suspended some accounts of prominent white supremacists.

Shkreli, a prolific tweeter, is no stranger to controversy. He rose to fame when Turing raised prices for a drug called Daraprim by more than 50-fold. That made him a poster boy for price gouging in the pharmaceutical industry, and got him included in a recent U.S. Senate committee report that called on the government to increase competition to lower prices.

Shkreli later paid millions of dollars for a copy of a Wu-Yang Clan album, and has since been charged with defrauding investors. He pleaded not guilty.

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