Ex-Twitter safety czar says Musk boosted efforts to oust hate speech

‘Twitter was actually safer under Mr. Musk than it was before’: Elon posts smiling group photo with Twitter coding staff – as ex safety czar says new boss upped efforts to get rid of hate speech… but warns Apple and Google might kill the app

  • Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of safety and integrity, said his team was empowered by Elon Musk to crackdown on hate speech 
  • Roth said that because 90 percent of revenue comes from ads, Musk is forced to keep the platform safe or risk losing advertisers 
  • However, he warned that the biggest challenge to the Chief Twits goal of a free-speech platform is Google and Apple 
  • The companies could pull Twitter from their app stores if they find safety concerns, with Roth saying that the companies routinely filed complaints
  • On Saturday, Elon posted photos of his latest meeting with coding staffers after about 1,200 workers resigned by Friday morning  

Twitter’s former head of safety and integrity said there was more censorship on the platform under Elon Musk, who boosted efforts to get rid of hate speech. 

Yoel Roth, who suddenly resigned last week despite backing from Musk, said the Chief Twit gave his team the job of making sure the platform flagged hate speech following a boost in such posts after he completed his $44 billion takeover. 

‘Mr. Musk empowered my team to move more aggressively to remove hate speech across the platform – censoring more content, not less,’ Roth wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times on Saturday. 

‘Before my departure, I shared data about Twitter’s enforcement of hateful conduct, showing that by some measures, Twitter was actually safer under Mr. Musk than it was before.’ 

Roth, however, warned that Musk’s goal to create an absolute, free speech platform could ultimately be hindered by Apple and Google, who might kick Twitter off their app stores over safety concerns. 

It would be the latest problem facing Musk, who lost about 1,200 more employees by Friday after they refused his ultimanum to committ to a ‘hardcore’ work environment. 

Following the resignations, Musk called on all available coders to meet with him in the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters, with the CEO sharing a group photo of himself and his workforce giving a happy thumbs up. 


Yoel Roth (left), Twitter’s former head of safety and integrity, said his team was empowered by Elon Musk (right) to crackdown on hate speech 

 

 

Amid a turbulent week that saw Twitter lose 1,200 more employees, Musk tweeted pictures of himself and his coding staff during a meeting on Saturday 

Despite describing himself as a free-speech absolutist, Musk’s goal to transform Twitter was primarily impacted by advertisers, Roth wrote. 

The former safety czar said that because 90 percent of the company’s revenue comes from ads, ‘Twitter has little choice but to operate in a way that won’t imperil the revenue streams that keep the lights on.’ 

The problems between Twitter and ad buyers became apparent when users took advantage of Musks’ $8-a-month verification system to parody official accounts, wreaking havoc on companies like Eli Lilly and Lockheed Martin, who saw billions wiped off their shares following controversial tweets from impersonation accounts. 

Roth said that while this likely fueled Musk to find profits outside advertisers, the Chief Twit’s biggest challenge might be Google and Apple. 

‘Failure to adhere to Apple’s and Google’s guidelines would be catastrophic, risking Twitter’s expulsion from their app stores and making it more difficult for billions of potential users to get Twitter’s services,’ Roth wrote. 

‘This gives Apple and Google enormous power to shape the decisions Twitter makes.’ 

He noted the companies’ influence as his team would regularly be contacted by Apple and Google reps with gripes over racial slurs and sexual content they would come across on Twitter. 

Roth said that the rules of the companies reflect the values of those in power rather than of their users, and touted Musk’s efforts to halt this version of censorship . 

Despite approving of Musk’s move to form a content moderation council to guide Twitter’s policy, Roth criticized the CEO’s decision to be the sole person calling the shots, saying it was no different than what Apple and Google executives do. 

‘It was for this reason that I chose to leave the company: A Twitter whose policies are defined by edict has little need for a trust and safety function dedicated to its principled development,’ Roth wrote.   

On Friday, Musk said that Twitter will be a free speech platform, but that hate tweets will be demonetized and not seen by many 

The former head of safety and integrity made waves when he resigned last week despite his endorsement from Musk for reducing views of harmful content in search results by 95 percent.

Roth was involved in the decision to censor reporting on the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop – a decision which the then-CEO Jack Dorsey said he regretted.

His team also saw the banning of former President Donald Trump for his comments following the deadly January 6 Capitol riot. 

On Friday, Musk, who describes himself as a champion of free-speech, outlined the company’s latest policy regarding censorship. 

‘New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,’ Musk tweeted. ‘Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. 

‘You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.’

The Chief Twit added: ‘Note, this applies just to the individual tweet, not the whole account.’ 

A former Twitter executive who recently left the company told CNN’s Oliver Darcy (above) that ‘[Twitter] will struggle just to keep the lights on’

The CEO’s latest announcement comes after Twitter reportedly lost multiple ‘critical’ engineering teams following a mass exodus that saw its workforce fall by 32 percent.

 

Meanwhile, the mass exodus didn’t appear to bother the billionaire CEO. who claimed that Twitter usage ‘just hit another all-time high’ 

As chaos befell the sight over rumors that it was shutting down over the mass exodus, Musk tweeted: ‘What should Twitter do next?’

Musk sent an email to his remaining 3,700 workers on Wednesday and gave them a 5pm ET Thursday deadline to either click a link confirming their willingness to work ‘long hours at high intensity’, or leave the company with three months severance pay.

Fortune estimated between 1,000 to 1,200 employees have resigned so far, with Musk demanding all remaining coders show up to Twitter’s San Francisco HQ on Friday. 

Many shared their departures on social media, including a viral video from Boston as workers counted down their last seconds at Twitter.  

Matthew Miller, whose LinkedIn profile states he’s worked as a Twitter engineer for 9 years, shared the video of himself and co-workers counting down the moment they no longer worked for the company following Musk’s deadline. 

‘Happy New Year,’ Miller yelled inside Twitter’s Boston office. ‘Yay! Hooray! That’s proper for the circumstance.’

Matthew Miller (bottom left), shared a viral video of himself and coworkers counting down the moment they no longer worked for the company following Musk’s deadline

Following the deadline, A former Twitter executive who recently left the company told CNN’s Oliver Darcy that: ‘Elon is finding out that he can’t bully top senior talent. They have lots of options and won’t put up with his antics.

‘[Twitter] will struggle just to keep the lights on.’

On Twitter, Musk appeared unfazed by the mass resignations, claiming the site just ‘hit another all-time high’ in usage. ‘Let that sink in.’ 

As chaos befell the sight over rumors that it was shutting down over the mass exodus, Musk added: ‘What should Twitter do next?’ 

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