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Twitter’s Former Trust and Safety Chief Says He Left When System of Governance Went Away

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Yoel Roth,

Twitter Inc.’s former head of trust and safety, said several factors led to his decision to leave the platform after almost eight years, including the disruptions created by rapid-fire changes from the company’s new owner.

He said he left the company following the botched launch of the upgraded Twitter Blue subscription program after Chief Executive

Elon Musk

ignored his team’s warnings about possible issues tied to the rollout.

Mr. Roth, speaking Tuesday at the Knight Foundation’s conference on democracy in the digital age, said he felt his role wasn’t needed if the new Twitter leadership wasn’t going to listen to his team’s guidance.

“We had a system of governance. It was rules-based. We enforced our rules as written,” said Mr. Roth, who had worked in trust and safety at Twitter since 2015 and left about two weeks after Mr. Musk completed his acquisition. “We did it transparently, and when that system of governance went away, you don’t need a head of trust and safety anymore.”

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new version of Twitter Blue started being rolled out after the Nov. 8 midterm elections and was priced at about $8 a month—up from about $5 a month. It was designed to give subscribers the blue check mark next to their name that historically had been reserved for users who had been identified as real and verified as notable. After it was rolled out, people used the blue check marks to impersonate companies, brands and celebrities.

“It went exactly off the rails in the way that we anticipated,” Mr. Roth said during the conversation with journalist Kara Swisher. “It’s not that it was a surprise.”

The subscription service was paused a few days later. Mr. Musk said he tentatively expects to reintroduce it Friday.

Mr. Roth said he was initially optimistic about the platform under Mr. Musk and that he thought Twitter was actually safer under the new owner. In the weeks that followed, he changed his mind, he said.

“By the time that I chose to leave, I realized that even if I spent all day every day trying to avert whatever the next disaster was, there were going to be the ones that got through and Blue verification got through over written advice prepared by my team and others at Twitter,” Mr. Roth said.

During his tenure at Twitter, Mr. Roth’s work included fighting spam and misinformation on the platform. He was also involved in high-level decisions, such as whether to ban then-President

Donald Trump

‘s account.

Before Mr. Roth’s departure, Mr. Musk publicly supported him after a 2017 tweet resurfaced, in which Mr. Roth said “actual Nazis” occupied the White House.

“We’ve all made some questionable tweets, me more than most, but I want to be clear that I support Yoel,” Mr. Musk tweeted. “My sense is that he has high integrity, and we are all entitled to our political beliefs.”

Mr. Musk has repeatedly said he wants to make Twitter a bastion of free speech and
recently reinstated Mr. Trump’s personal account. He has also said he would abide by local laws related to content.

Twitter said earlier Tuesday it is no longer enforcing its policy that tried to limit the spread of Covid-19 misinformation.

Mr. Roth is one of thousands of employees who have departed Twitter—either through layoffs, resignations or firings—since Mr. Musk completed his $44 billion purchase late last month.

Write to Meghan Bobrowsky at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the November 30, 2022, print edition as ‘Twitter’s Ex-Safety Chief Says He Left When Governance System Went Away.’


Yoel Roth,

Twitter Inc.’s former head of trust and safety, said several factors led to his decision to leave the platform after almost eight years, including the disruptions created by rapid-fire changes from the company’s new owner.

He said he left the company following the botched launch of the upgraded Twitter Blue subscription program after Chief Executive

Elon Musk

ignored his team’s warnings about possible issues tied to the rollout.

Mr. Roth, speaking Tuesday at the Knight Foundation’s conference on democracy in the digital age, said he felt his role wasn’t needed if the new Twitter leadership wasn’t going to listen to his team’s guidance.

“We had a system of governance. It was rules-based. We enforced our rules as written,” said Mr. Roth, who had worked in trust and safety at Twitter since 2015 and left about two weeks after Mr. Musk completed his acquisition. “We did it transparently, and when that system of governance went away, you don’t need a head of trust and safety anymore.”

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new version of Twitter Blue started being rolled out after the Nov. 8 midterm elections and was priced at about $8 a month—up from about $5 a month. It was designed to give subscribers the blue check mark next to their name that historically had been reserved for users who had been identified as real and verified as notable. After it was rolled out, people used the blue check marks to impersonate companies, brands and celebrities.

“It went exactly off the rails in the way that we anticipated,” Mr. Roth said during the conversation with journalist Kara Swisher. “It’s not that it was a surprise.”

The subscription service was paused a few days later. Mr. Musk said he tentatively expects to reintroduce it Friday.

Mr. Roth said he was initially optimistic about the platform under Mr. Musk and that he thought Twitter was actually safer under the new owner. In the weeks that followed, he changed his mind, he said.

“By the time that I chose to leave, I realized that even if I spent all day every day trying to avert whatever the next disaster was, there were going to be the ones that got through and Blue verification got through over written advice prepared by my team and others at Twitter,” Mr. Roth said.

During his tenure at Twitter, Mr. Roth’s work included fighting spam and misinformation on the platform. He was also involved in high-level decisions, such as whether to ban then-President

Donald Trump

‘s account.

Before Mr. Roth’s departure, Mr. Musk publicly supported him after a 2017 tweet resurfaced, in which Mr. Roth said “actual Nazis” occupied the White House.

“We’ve all made some questionable tweets, me more than most, but I want to be clear that I support Yoel,” Mr. Musk tweeted. “My sense is that he has high integrity, and we are all entitled to our political beliefs.”

Mr. Musk has repeatedly said he wants to make Twitter a bastion of free speech and
recently reinstated Mr. Trump’s personal account. He has also said he would abide by local laws related to content.

Twitter said earlier Tuesday it is no longer enforcing its policy that tried to limit the spread of Covid-19 misinformation.

Mr. Roth is one of thousands of employees who have departed Twitter—either through layoffs, resignations or firings—since Mr. Musk completed his $44 billion purchase late last month.

Write to Meghan Bobrowsky at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the November 30, 2022, print edition as ‘Twitter’s Ex-Safety Chief Says He Left When Governance System Went Away.’

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