Twitter dissolves Trust and Safety Council, Yoel Roth runs away from home


Twitter abruptly dissolved its Trust and Safety Council on Monday evening, the latest sign that Elon Musk is unraveling years of work and institutions created to make the social network safer and more civil.

Members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council received an email with the subject line “Thank you”, informing them that the council was no longer “the best structure” to provide “external feedback on our work developing products and policies”.

The email disbandment came less than an hour before board members expected to meet with Twitter executives via Zoom to discuss recent developments, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans.

Dozens of civil rights leaders, scholars, and advocates from around the world have volunteered their time for years to help improve security on the platform.

“We appreciate your commitment, guidance and collaboration over the past few years and wish you every success in the future,” reads the email, simply signed “Twitter.”

In less than two months, Musk undid years of investments in trust and safety at Twitter, laying off key parts of the workforce and bringing back accounts that had previously been suspended.

The Trust and Safety Council collapsed after Musk himself proposed the creation of a content moderation council that would have weighed in on key content moderation decisions, but then appeared to change his mind on the introduction of such a body.

Many members were already on the verge of quitting, said Larry Magid, chief executive of ConnectSafely, a Silicon Valley nonprofit that advises consumers on children’s internet use.

“By dissolving it, we were fired instead of resigning,” he said. “Elon doesn’t want criticism, and he really doesn’t want the kind of advice he would most likely get from a security advisory board, asking him to rehire some of the staff he got rid of, reinstate some rules he got rid of and to steer the business in a different direction than the one in which he is turning it.

Last week, three members of the Trust and Safety Council resigned, warning that “the safety and wellbeing of Twitter users is in decline”.

Musk responded to replies to their tweet announcing their resignation by writing, “It’s a crime they refused to take action against child exploitation for years!”

Jack Dorsey, the company’s former CEO, responded to Musk, calling the claim “false.” But Musk’s comment nonetheless sparked a wave of threats and harassment against board members who left the board, as well as some who remained.

Musk’s treatment of the board mirrored a wave of attacks that enveloped a former senior executive at the company over the weekend.

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, and his family were forced out of their home after Elon Musk’s tweets misrepresented Roth’s academic writings on sexual activity and children . The online mob also sent threats to people Roth had replied to on Twitter, forcing some of Roth’s family and friends to delete their Twitter accounts, according to a person familiar with Roth’s situation who spoke under the guise of anonymity due to concerns about Roth’s safety.

Musk’s supporters have also harassed the professors who reviewed Roth’s 2016 thesis, as well as his graduate school, the University of Pennsylvania, the person said. The university did not respond to a request for comment.

As head of trust and safety at Twitter, Roth has been involved in many of the platform’s decisions about which posts to remove and which accounts to suspend. His communications with other Twitter officials have been published in recent days as part of what Musk calls the Twitter Files, a series of tweets from conservative journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss.

Musk’s tweets to his tens of millions of followers have for years prompted his followers to shower the targets of his anger with online threats – famously, a participant in the rescue of a boys’ football team trapped in a cave in Thailand, which Musk called a “pedo”. Dude.” But now that Musk owns one of the most powerful social networks in the world and has gutted the division of the company that previously controlled online harassment, the stakes are even higher.

Recall of Musk’s tweets on Roth the QAnon conspiratorial movement, which falsely claims that Democratic Party leaders run a child sex abuse ring.

“Looks like Yoel is making the case for kids being able to access adult internet services in his PhD thesis,” Musk tweeted on Saturday, attaching a screenshot of Roth’s thesis.

Elon Musk beefs up criticism of Twitter executives, sparking online attacks

In the text, Roth suggested that services like gay dating app Grindr should adopt safety strategies to accommodate teenagers using their platforms, rather than chasing them away altogether. Musk also commented on a 2010 tweet in which Roth wrote, “Can high school kids really consent to having sex with their teachers? Roth then linked to an article about a Washington State Supreme Court ruling on the age at which students can consent to have sex with their professors.

Musk’s critical comments about Roth are something of a flip-flop since his early days at the company, when Roth appeared to be one of the few high-level Twitter executives backed by Musk. On October 30, the billionaire tweeted, “I want to make it clear that I support Yoel. My feeling is that he has great integrity and that we are all entitled to our political beliefs.

And Roth appeared measured in his comments about Twitter’s new owner, seeking to reassure the public about the company’s efforts to fight hate and protect elections. He even appeared alongside Musk in a call intended to reassure advertisers.

Even after leaving Twitter in November, Roth was muted in his criticism. He warned in a New York Times editorial that there was “little need” for a trust and security function in a company where “policies are set by fiat.” But he has also publicly stated that it was not accurate to portray Musk as the “villain of the story” during his takeover of the company.

“I think one of the tricky things about Elon, in particular, is that people really want him to be the bad guy in the story, and they want him to be unequivocally wrong and bad, and everything he says is duplicity,” Roth said. said in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference. “I have to say…that wasn’t my experience with him.”

Musk’s ‘free speech’ agenda is dismantling Twitter security work, insiders say

Still, Roth is the most visible former Twitter executive who assesses Musk’s actions, and his role in the company has been highlighted in the Twitter files.

Twitter employees have long been suspicious of Musk’s ability to fuel online criticism. Shortly after announcing his intention to take over the company in April, he tweeted a meme to his tens of millions of followers with the face of Twitter’s top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde, which seemed to suggest that the decisions of the company were affected by a “left wing”. bias.”

Twitter users quickly piled in – calling on Musk to fire Gadde or using racist language to describe her. Gadde was born in India and immigrated to the United States as a child. One user said she would “go down in history as a terrible person”.

Such harassment is part of a pattern that has gone on for years for Musk, with few legal consequences to date. Musk was ultimately not held liable in a defamation lawsuit filed after he made his “pedo” remarks.

Joseph Menn and Naomi Nix contributed from San Francisco.

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