A former head of trust and safety at Twitter was reportedly forced to flee his home over threats he received after CEO Elon Musk baselessly accused him of supporting online child sexualization.
The vitriol followed Musk misrepresenting Roth’s past Ph.D. thesis in a tweet Saturday, telling his 121 million followers, “Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult Internet services.”
Contrary to the CEO’s claim, Roth had argued in his thesis ― an excerpt of which was shared by Musk ― that more safeguards should be added to hookup sites like Grindr to protect young adults who will inevitably access and use them.
Roth’s former professors who reviewed his 2016 dissertation were also subjected to targeted harassment online, reported The Post, citing a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about Roth’s safety.
Roth did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
More recently, Roth was thrust into the spotlight after his purported conversations with company officials were published in the so-called Twitter Files. Leaked images of internal communications show him appearing to discuss whether Donald Trump should be booted from Twitter after the then-president was accused of using the platform to incite violence at the U.S. Capitol in 2021.
Musk appeared to be on good terms with Roth up until his resignation last month.
The billionaire publicly defended Roth in late October and praised him as a man of “high integrity” after Twitter users highlighted past tweets from Roth that criticized Trump.
Immediately following his resignation, Roth published an op-ed that credited Musk with making Twitter “safer” amid an aggressive push to remove hate speech, which Roth said had risen on the platform with Musk’s purchase of the company. But Roth added that Musk’s “impulsive changes” to Twitter’s rules — which he said were based on capricious opinions — made his role as a policy enforcer obsolete.
“A Twitter whose policies are defined by edict has little need for a trust and safety function dedicated to its principled development,” Roth wrote.
Roth isn’t the first to face child abuse-related allegations from Musk, who has increasingly aligned himself with right-wing commentators and conspiracy theorists, some of whom hurl pedophilia claims as a means of insult and attack.
Musk made similar insinuations against other former employees on the company’s trust and safety team who said that Twitter users’ “safety and wellbeing” were on the decline following Musk’s acquisition.
The CEO fired back by accusing them of criminally refusing to take action against child exploitation on Twitter after a right-wing conspiracy theorist tweeted that the former employees “all belong in jail.” Jack Dorsey, the company’s previous chief executive, directly responded to Musk online, calling his allegations “false.”
In 2018, Musk used the term “pedo guy” on Twitter to describe a British man who was involved in the rescue of Thai children trapped in a cave. Musk later reportedly paid a private investigator $50,000 to search for compromising information on the man.
Musk was sued by the man but successfully argued in court that his insult wasn’t meant to be taken literally, despite the harm the man said it caused him and his reputation.