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Musk keeping Twitter's policeman who's anti-conservative?

Turn's out that Musk might not be the unfair SOB the left paints him out to be. Perhaps he legitimately wants to allow both sides to have a town square.

Twitter’s Moderation Boss Is an Unlikely Ally of Elon Musk

Yoel Roth, who has been accused in the past of being anticonservative, is tasked with policing the site’s content

Yoel Roth is among the handful of senior members remaining at Twitter after Elon Musk assumed ownership and fired most executives.

By Sarah E. Needleman and Robert McMillan, WSJ

Nov. 10, 2022 5:30 am ET

The executive tasked with policing content on Twitter Inc. might seem an unlikely ally for Elon Musk, a self-described free-speech absolutist.

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s global head of safety and security, was maligned by critics a couple of years ago as the embodiment of the company’s alleged bias against conservative users, an issue Mr. Musk has vowed to address.

Yet in the chaotic period since Mr. Musk took over Twitter, the billionaire has publicly defended Mr. Roth and positioned him to be a key player in plans to overhaul how the social-media platform moderates content. With Mr. Roth, Mr. Musk appears to have found a partner for achieving the goal he tweeted Sunday of making Twitter “by far the most accurate source of information about the world.”

“I recommend following @yoyoel for the most accurate understanding of what’s happening with trust & safety at Twitter,” Mr. Musk tweeted on Oct. 31, a few days after he completed his $44 billion takeover.

Former colleague Edward Perez said, “Yoel has a reputation for being very thoughtful about the nuances and complexities of trust and safety and content moderation.” Mr. Perez is a board member at the Open Source Election Technology Institute and until September was on a Twitter team that worked with Mr. Roth’s group. “Yoel recognizes the very difficult trade-offs between balancing free speech and reducing harm,” he said.

Mr. Roth and Twitter didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Roth is among a handful of remaining members of Twitter’s senior leadership team after Mr. Musk assumed ownership on Oct. 27 and fired most executives, including the chief executive, financial chief and legal chief. A few days later, Mr. Musk defended Mr. Roth when a user pointed out that Mr. Roth tweeted in 2017 that “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.”

Those remarks and others made by Mr. Musk in recent days show that moderation has become a central issue for the billionaire, as Twitter deals with a sudden steep drop-off in revenue and the aftermath of layoffs he ordered late last week that pared about 50% of employees. Mr. Musk is now dealing with managing one of the world’s biggest megaphones, with help from Mr. Roth.

Mr. Roth’s role at Twitter reached public attention in 2020, when his photo was featured on the cover of the New York Post with an article that described him as a biased fact-checker for the platform. At the time, Twitter had recently labeled several of former President Donald Trump’s tweets as misinformation. According to the article, Mr. Roth allegedly had “a history of bashing Trump and other conservatives.” At the time, a representative of Twitter said, “No one person at Twitter is responsible for our policies or enforcement actions,” according to the article.

Elon Musk has purchased Twitter, ending a monthslong saga over whether or not he would go through with his offer to acquire the social media platform. WSJ takes an inside look at the tweets, texts and filings to see exactly how the battle played out. Illustration: Jordan Kranse

Mr. Musk had pledged to modify Twitter’s moderation rules and allow Mr. Trump and others who were permanently banned from the platform to return. He also promised to look into complaints by conservative users who claimed that the platform inexplicably removed many of their followers and took other steps to minimize their reach.

Shortly after the sale went through, in reply to a tweet by Mr. Roth about election integrity, Mr. Musk said he talked with leaders of groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The conversation, Mr. Musk said, was “about how Twitter will continue to combat hate & harassment & enforce its election integrity policies.”

The move elicited complaints from some users. “I’ve been a fan of yours but you’re fast losing me,” one person tweeted. “Where are the conservative voices, the Independents?”

Republican digital strategist Tim Cameron said he was surprised Mr. Musk kept Mr. Roth on Twitter’s payroll. He also said Mr. Musk “has better insight than anybody at this point as to who were the good actors and who were the bad actors in terms of trust and safety.”

Mr. Roth, Mr. Musk and others from Twitter this week held a video call with advertisers to assure them that moderation and security on the platform hasn’t changed, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Roth provided data and commentary to support his arguments during the conversation, the people said.

The virtual meeting took place after several large companies paused their Twitter advertising following Mr. Musk’s takeover. Some are concerned Mr. Musk could scale back content moderation, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Mr. Roth joined Twitter about seven years ago working on user privacy, according to his LinkedIn profile. Previously he was a dangerous-speech researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, the profile shows. It also says Mr. Roth holds a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied and taught the intersection of social media and platform governance, safety, identity and privacy.


How do you think Elon Musk and his team will change Twitter? Join the conversation below.

“He’s been an invaluable part of Twitter for years,” said Del Harvey, former vice president of trust and safety at Twitter who left the company about a year ago. “He’s just so ferociously competent. He’s really driven by a desire to promote healthy behavior” on the platform.

Since Mr. Musk took over Twitter, Mr. Roth has sought to assure users that the platform still has plenty of moderators working to enforce its rules despite the company’s mass layoffs. “While we said goodbye to incredibly talented friends and colleagues yesterday, our core moderation capabilities remain in place,” he tweeted on Nov. 4. Mr. Roth added in another tweet that only 15% of the trust and safety team was cut.

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