Elon Musk famously claimed that his acquisition of Twitter wouldn't result in the app becoming a free-for-all "hellscape," but the billionaire's personal attacks on a former Twitter employee call that assertion into question. Musk participated in a weekend smear campaign targeting Twitter's former trust and safety head.
In a remarkably homophobic and baseless way, Musk accused Yoel Roth, who resigned from Twitter recently after surviving Musk's firings, of sexualizing children.
Musk clipped a section of Roth's doctoral dissertation in a screen shot and tweeted it along with the comment "Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult Internet services in his PhD thesis."
\u201c@elizableu Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult Internet services in his PhD thesis:\u201d
Roth, who is gay, wrote his University of Pennsylvania dissertation titled Gay Data about the hookup app Grindr.
In the Musk-tweeted snippet, Roth draws a conclusion over content moderation and suggests companies that run social media applications like Grindr should aim to make their platforms safe for all, with the understanding that queer youth under 18 access these programs as well. However, he does not advocate for the sexualization of children.
Roth's dissertation states that Grinder isn't "a safe and age-appropriate resource for teenagers," but because queer youth use the app regardless, it "should instead focus on crafting safety strategies that can accommodate a wide variety of use cases."
Far-right extremists have recently spread the decades-old, false smear that gay and trans people were "groomers" who could not be trusted to be among children.
On Musk's first day as CEO, Roth became the most senior member of Twitter's trust and safety team after executive Vijaya Gadde was fired. Roth initially defended Musk during public-facing meetings and in public comments but ultimately resigned from his position.
Roth wrote an op-ed for TheNew York Times on November 18, days after departing from Twitter, in which he noted that the platform "was actually safer under Mr. Musk than it was before."
However, asked in an interview at the Knight Foundation conference fewer than 10 days later whether he still felt that way, Roth said "No," according to Reuters.