Yoel Roth was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter before he resigned earlier this month after he fell out with Elon Musk. The former top official granted an interview to CNN on Tuesday to explain how the dictatorial management style of the South African businessman will continue to hurt the micro-blogging platform.
Roth explained that should Elon Musk continue to operate in this manner, he would drive the much-loved company into unforced business blunders, content moderation disasters, and the degradation of the features that help protect vulnerable users.
The former top official admits he wanted to stay at Twitter after the takeover and presented himself as a voice of stability and calm. He also hoped that he and other top officials who did not leave Twitter may have been able to influence Musk and keep him on track.
Since Elon musk completed his takeover of Twitter, some brands have stopped paying to advertise on the platform. Roth admits that he knew Musk would use him to help keep advertisers from abandoning the platform. He even appeared on a Twitter Space session to encourage advertisers that it would be business as usual.
The paid verification feature proposed by Musk has been the most controversial story since the takeover. Musk ignored the warnings from Roth and other colleagues, and the paid verification feature allowed trolls to create multiple imposter accounts posing as brands, celebrities, and former presidents. Twitter had no choice but to suspend the feature, but some damage had been done.
Roeth explains that this “is an example of a disaster that slipped through” amid the chaos Musk brought to Twitter. He further explains that the prospect of further disasters made it impossible to stay at the company, hence his resignation.
“He would say things that were consistent with establishing a moderation council, that were consistent with not making capricious, unilateral decisions, and I was optimistic on the basis of that,” Roth said. “My optimism ultimately faded.”
Twitter exodus may put users at risk
“It went off the rails in exactly the ways that we anticipated,” Roth said during an onstage interview with the journalist Kara Swisher Tuesday in his first public appearance since quitting Twitter on Nov. 10.
Roth also shared his thoughts on the recent layoffs at the microblogging platform and explained that users should pay attention to some of the features that protect users as they may begin to malfunction. Twitter may be able to improve its machine learning systems, but the lack of veteran policy and safety employees at the company would hurt the platform.
He said users should pay close attention to whether key safety features, like blocking and muting, continue to function normally, as well as privacy-protecting features like protected tweets. “If protected tweets stop working, run, because it’s a symptom that something is deeply wrong,” he said.
“People are not sitting still,” he said. “They are actively devising new ways to be horrible on the internet.”
Are there enough people who understand the emergent, malicious campaigns that happen on the service and understand it well enough to guide product strategy and policy direction,” he said. “I don’t think there are enough people left at the company who can do that work.”
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