Twitter’s former head of security and privacy said there was more censorship on the platform under Elon Musk, who stepped up efforts to get rid of hate speech.
Yoel Roth, who resigned suddenly last week despite support from Musk, said Chief Twit gave his team the job of making sure the platform flagged hate speech after a surge 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.
“Prior to my departure, I shared data about Twitter’s enforcement of hateful behavior, showing that Twitter was actually safer under Mr. Musk than it was before.”
Roth warned, however, that Musk’s goal of creating an absolute platform for free speech could ultimately be thwarted by Apple and Google, which could kick Twitter from its app stores over security concerns.
It would be the latest problem for Musk, who lost about 1,200 more employees on Friday after they refused his ultimatum to commit to a “hardcore” work environment.
After his departure, Musk invited all available coders to meet him at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters, where the CEO shared a group photo of himself and his workforce giving a happy thumbs-up.
Yoel Roth (left), Twitter’s former head of security and privacy, said his team was empowered by Elon Musk (right) to crack down on hate speech
Amid a turbulent week in which Twitter lost 1,200 more employees, Musk tweeted photos of himself and his coding staff during a meeting on Saturday
Despite describing himself as a free-speech stalwart, Musk’s goal to transform Twitter was influenced primarily by advertisers, Roth wrote.
The former security czar said that since 90 percent of the company’s revenue comes from ads, “Twitter has no choice but to operate in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the revenue streams that keep the lights on.”
The problems between Twitter and ad buyers became apparent when users took advantage of Musk’s $8-a-month verification system to spoof official accounts, wreaking havoc on companies like Eli Lilly and Lockheed Martin, which saw billions wiped off their stock after controversial tweets from identity theft accounts.
Roth said that while this likely led Musk to find profits outside of advertisers, Chief Twit’s biggest challenge may be Google and Apple.
“Failure to follow Apple’s and Google’s guidelines would be disastrous, 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 that Twitter makes.”
He noted the companies’ influence because his team would regularly be contacted by Apple and Google representatives with complaints about racial slurs and sexual content they would encounter on Twitter.
Roth said the companies’ rules reflect the values of those in power rather than their users, and praised Musk’s efforts to stop this version of censorship.
While he approved of Musk’s move to form a content moderation council to guide Twitter’s policies, Roth criticized the CEO’s decision to be the only person calling the shots, saying it was no different than what Apple and Google executives are doing.
“It was for this reason that I chose to leave the company: a Twitter whose policy is defined by edict has little need for a trust and security function dedicated to its principled development,” Roth wrote.
On Friday, Musk said that Twitter will be a platform for free speech, but that hate tweets will be demonetized and not seen by many
The former head of security and privacy hit back when he resigned last week despite his support from Musk to reduce showings 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 then-CEO Jack Dorsey said he regretted.
His team also saw the ban on former President Donald Trump for his comments after the deadly Capitol riot on January 6.
On Friday, Musk, who describes himself as a champion of free speech, outlined the company’s latest policy on censorship.
“New Twitter policy is free speech, but not reach,” Musk tweeted. “Negative/hate tweets will be maxed out and demonetized, so no ads or other revenue for Twitter.
“You won’t find the tweet unless you’re specifically looking for it, which is no different than the rest of the Internet.”
Chief Twit added: “Note, this only applies to the individual tweet, not the entire account.”
A former Twitter executive who recently left the company told CNN’s Oliver Darcy (above) that “[Twitter] will fight just to keep the lights on’
The CEO’s latest announcement comes after Twitter reportedly lost several “critical” engineering teams following a mass exodus that saw its workforce cut by 32 percent.
At the same time, the mass exodus didn’t seem to bother the billionaire’s CEO. who claimed that Twitter usage “just hit another record high”
As chaos engulfed the vision over rumors of its shutdown due to the mass exodus, Musk tweeted: “What’s Twitter going to do next?”
Musk sent an email to his remaining 3,700 workers on Wednesday, giving them a deadline of 5 p.m. ET Thursday to either click on a link confirming their willingness to work “long, high-intensity hours,” or leave the company with three months’ severance pay.
Fortune estimates that between 1,000 to 1,200 employees have resigned so far, and Musk is demanding that all remaining coders show up at 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 final seconds on Twitter.
Matthew Miller, whose LinkedIn profile says he has worked as a Twitter engineer for 9 years, shared the video of himself and his co-workers counting down the moment they no longer worked for the company after Musk’s deadline.
“Happy New Year,” Miller shouted inside Twitter’s Boston office. ‘Yippie! Hurray! It is appropriate for the circumstances.
Matthew Miller (bottom left), shared a viral video of himself and colleagues counting down the moment they no longer worked for the company after Musk’s deadline
After deadline, a former Twitter executive who recently left the company told CNN’s Oliver Darcy that: “Elon is realizing he can’t bully top senior talent. They have plenty of options and won’t put up with his antics.
‘[Twitter] will struggle just to keep the lights on.’
On Twitter, Musk seemed unfazed by the mass departures, claiming the site just “hit another record high” in usage. “Let it sink in.”
As chaos gripped the sight over rumors it would shut down due to the mass exodus, Musk added: “What’s Twitter going to do next?”
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