Stephen Fry has closed his Twitter account after facing heavy criticism for describing one of the winners of a Bafta as a "bag lady" while hosting the ceremony in London. Fry defended his joke, saying the lady in question was a friend, but wrote that the fun had gone out of Twitter and so he was closing his account for the final time because "too may people have peed in the pool."
Fry made his quip after awarding the Bafta to costume designer, Jenny Beavan for her work on Mad Max: Fury Road. Beavan collected her award in a leather jacket and scarf and as she walked off, Fry said: "Only one of the great cinematic costume designers would come to an awards dressed as a bag lady."
The comment led to a furious reaction on Twitter by users who thought he had gone too far and others who defended the right of a comedian to tell jokes. Fry replied: "Will all you sanctimonious f***ers f**k the f**k off Jenny Beavan is a friend and joshing is legitimate." He added: "Christ I want to leave the planet".
Fry has closed his account several times before, but usually he has reappeared after a break. However the backlash appears to have been the final straw for the actor and host of QI. On his personal website he said this time he was leaving Twitter for good.
"The pool is stagnant," wrote Fry. "It is frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish. If you don't watch yourself, with every move you'll end up being gashed, broken, bruised or contused. Even if you negotiate the sharp rocks you'll soon feel that too many people have peed in the pool for you to want to swim there any more. The fun is over."
Fry's remarks will have struck a chord with many Twitter users who are dismayed at the way trolls and the permanently-outraged appear to have taken over the site. Twitter recently announced a drop in revenue after the number of users fell from 307 million to 305 million. Twitter has come under pressure to do more to weed out hate-mongers but some civil liberties groups believe more policing of the internet would impede on free speech.