Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of Trust and Safety, has been forced to flee his home after receiving death threats stemming from Elon Musk’s suggesting that Roth is a pedophile, CNN reported on Monday.
Roth, who initially supported Musk after he took control of the platform, resigned on Nov. 10, saying he had hoped “to avoid an escalation in the volume of dangerous speech online.”
Over the weekend, Musk shared some of Roth’s past tweets and what appears to be an excerpt from his PhD thesis about Grindr, the LGBTQ social media app. Roth is quoted as saying that the app is possibly too “lewd or hook-up-oriented” for people under age 18 who are already using it, but that providers should “focus on creating safe strategies … for queer young adults” that aren’t just about hook-ups. Musk commented, “Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to use adult services in his PhD thesis.” On Monday, the tweet had more than 60,000 likes and received 15,000 retweets.
“Watching Elon launch a digital mob against his former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, an openly gay Jewish man, is one of the most vile and disgusting things I’ve ever seen. He’s putting Yoel’s life in danger and he knows it. It’s sick, twisted, and sociopathic,” tweeted Alejandra Caraballo, a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic.
“@TwitterSafety appears to no longer be removing death threats,” @conspirator0 noted. “The man being targeted here been forced to flee his home. Choosing to leave these threats online is a sociopathic and evil decision.” The threats they retweeted included a meme of SpongeBob SquarePants and pal Patrick holding open a coffin with the caption, “Groomers get the forever box;” a photo of a military firing squad; and a photo of a prescription bottle filled with bullets that reads “Pedocillin,” with the caption, “You dropped your medication.”
Tech journalist Kara Swisher, who recently called Musk her “greatest disappointment” in 25 years of covering the industry tweeted, “These cruel attacks by Elon Musk are sickening and based on a purposefully ignorant mischaracterization of @yoyoel’s work. It also puts him in direct personal danger from people who believe this bull— from the chief s— stirrer.”
A person familiar with the situation told CNN the threats escalated exponentially after Musk endorsed the idea that Roth was a pedophile.
Other anti-Roth tweets compared him to the late Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of sex trafficking minors.
Since taking control of Twitter on October 27, Musk has slashed the company’s staff in half and decimated the safety and moderation departments. He also welcomed back such notoriously banned users as antisemitic rapper “Ye,” ex-President Donald Trump, and neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin.
The new Twitter vice president of Trust and Safety Product Ella Irwin told Reuters earlier this month that the platform is now using more automation to moderate content and eliminating certain reviews that used to be done manually. The focus is now on “restrictions on distribution,” rather than removing hateful speech directly.
“The biggest thing that’s changed is the team is fully empowered to move fast and be as aggressive as possible,” she said in the first interview a Twitter executive had given Musk’s takeover.
On Sunday, Musk called for immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci to be prosecuted in a tweet that also mocked the trans community’s use of pronouns. Musk recently announced that COVID-19 misinformation would no longer be flagged on Twitter.