Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

source-codesource codeauthorEmily BirnbaumNoneWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Power

Trump supporters are on the attack against Yoel Roth. Twitter is standing by him.

Republicans angry over Twitter's decision to fact-check the president seize on prior anti-GOP tweets from the company's head of site integrity.

Laptop screen showing tweet from President Donald Trump

The president says Twitter is "stifling FREE SPEECH" by inserting a fact-check link to some of his tweets.

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yoel Roth is not a top executive at Twitter. He is the company's "head of site integrity," making him one member of the company's broad team dedicated to enforcing Twitter's rules. He works under Del Harvey, Twitter's vice president of trust and safety. He's best-known for dealing with issues around bots and spam.

But over the past 24 hours, Roth has become the poster child of everything that Republicans say is wrong with Silicon Valley — tying Roth's past tweets criticizing the GOP and President Donald Trump to Twitter's decision this week to add a fact-check link to the president's tweets about mail-in ballots.

On "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday morning, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway read Roth's Twitter handle aloud and said: "Somebody in San Francisco go wake him up. Tell him he's about to get more followers."

Roth has received more than 3,000 new followers over the past day, according to an analysis of his Twitter account. He hasn't tweeted since Monday, but harassing messages are appearing every minute under his latest posts, and right-wing accounts with millions of followers, including the president's son and the Trump campaign's official account, have been tweeting out his name and personal information every hour since mid-Tuesday.

A Twitter spokesperson told Protocol the company is standing behind Roth and does not have any plans to fire or suspend him.

"No one person at Twitter is responsible for our policies or enforcement actions," a Twitter spokesperson said, "and it's unfortunate to see individual employees targeted for company decisions."

A person familiar with the matter said Roth has faced an explosion of death threats.

The storm began on Tuesday, when Twitter flagged a tweet from Trump as false, prompting conservatives and then Trump himself to lash out over allegations that Twitter was exhibiting bias against the president. It's a familiar battle, and one that came only days after The Wall Street Journal reported that the president was considering convening panels devoted to unearthing "anti-conservative" bias, a culture war known to fire up the GOP's base during election seasons.

"Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct," Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning. "Big action to follow!"

Twitter confirmed that Roth was one of many voices within the company that helped make the decision to fact-check Trump. But it was not his call alone, Twitter said — it was made by the broader "trust and safety" team.

It was the first time Twitter has appended its "misinformation" label to a tweet from Trump after years of pressure to do so, and it underscored the impossible question that companies like Twitter have found themselves facing in the Trump era: Should social media sites fact-check the president when he uses his enormous platform to spread falsehoods?

Roth, who has been at Twitter for more than four years and comes from an academic background, was almost immediately thrust into the center of that debate. Jon Levine, a reporter with the New York Post who is popular among conservatives, on Tuesday tweeted screenshots of Roth's tweets about Republicans from 2017.

In one tweet, Roth called Mitch McConnell "a personality-free bag of farts." In another, he wrote there were "actual Nazis in the White House."

The tweets took on a life of their own, bolstered by an article published on Fox News, promotions from the Trump-friendly One America News Network, and Conway's attack on "Fox & Friends." By Wednesday afternoon, Donald Trump Jr. had retweeted the post to his 5 million followers, writing, "This joker is in charge of 'Site Integrity?' Could you possibly find someone more biased?"

The Trump 2020 campaign's official account responded to a tweet from the president, likely in a bid to get more eyeballs on their message: "Yoel Roth is the Twitter employee in charge of 'developing and enforcing Twitter's rules' and he has a history of tweeting terrible and vile things that show he has a very bad case of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)!"

Twitter said Roth is continuing to work despite the barrage of death threats and harassment he is facing. The company declined to comment on whether it has assigned a security detail to his home.

But the episode highlights the toxicity around the political debate around how social media companies should treat speech from world leaders, especially Trump, and how quickly that fight can devolve into personal attacks from those who think there are political points to be won.

Protocol | China

China’s edtech crackdown isn’t what you think. Here’s why.

It's part of an attempt to fix education inequality and address a looming demographic crisis.

In the past decade, China's private tutoring market has expanded rapidly as it's been digitized and bolstered by capital.

Photo: Getty Images

Beijing's strike against the private tutoring and ed tech industry has rattled the market and led observers to try to answer one big question: What is Beijing trying to achieve?

Sweeping policy guidelines issued by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on July 24 and the State Council now mandate that existing private tutoring companies register as nonprofit organizations. Extracurricular tutoring companies will be banned from going public. Online tutoring agencies will be subject to regulatory approval.

Keep Reading Show less
Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Over half of employees report working longer hours, and a quarter say they're unable to unplug from work.

The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

Keep Reading Show less
Stella Garber
Stella Garber is Trello's Head of Marketing. Stella has led Marketing at Trello for the last seven years from early stage startup all the way through its acquisition by Atlassian in 2017 and beyond. Stella was an early champion of remote work, having led remote teams for the last decade plus.

It’s soul-destroying and it uses DRM, therefore Peloton is tech

"I mean, the pedals go around if you turn off all the tech, but Peloton isn't selling a pedaling product."

Is this tech? Or is it just a bike with a screen?

Image: Peloton and Protocol

One of the breakout hits from the pandemic, besides Taylor Swift's "Folklore," has been Peloton. With upwards of 5.4 million members as of March and nearly $1.3 billion in revenue that quarter, a lot of people are turning in their gym memberships for a bike or a treadmill and a slick-looking app.

But here at Protocol, it's that slick-looking app, plus all the tech that goes into it, that matters. And that's where things got really heated during our chat this week. Is Peloton tech? Or is it just a bike with a giant tablet on it? Can all bikes be tech with a little elbow grease?

Keep Reading Show less
Karyne Levy

Karyne Levy ( @karynelevy) is the West Coast editor at Protocol. Before joining Protocol, Karyne was a senior producer at Scribd, helping to create the original content program. Prior to that she was an assigning editor at NerdWallet, a senior tech editor at Business Insider, and the assistant managing editor at CNET, where she also hosted Rumor Has It for CNET TV. She lives outside San Francisco with her wife, son and lots of pets.

Protocol | Workplace

In Silicon Valley, it’s February 2020 all over again

"We'll reopen when it's right, but right now the world is changing too much."

Tech companies are handling the delta variant in differing ways.

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

It's still 2021, right? Because frankly, it's starting to feel like March 2020 all over again.

Google, Apple, Uber and Lyft have now all told employees they won't have to come back to the office before October as COVID-19 case counts continue to tick back up. Facebook, Google and Uber are now requiring workers to get vaccinated before coming to the office, and Twitter — also requiring vaccines — went so far as to shut down its reopened offices on Wednesday, and put future office reopenings on hold.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | China

Livestreaming ecommerce next battleground for China’s nationalists

Vendors for Nike and even Chinese brands were harassed for not donating enough to Henan.

Nationalists were trolling in the comment sections of livestream sessions selling products by Li-Ning, Adidas and other brands.

Collage: Weibo, Bilibili

The No. 1 rule of sales: Don't praise your competitor's product. Rule No. 2: When you are put to a loyalty test by nationalist trolls, forget the first rule.

While China continues to respond to the catastrophic flooding that has killed 99 and displaced 1.4 million people in the central province of Henan, a large group of trolls was busy doing something else: harassing ordinary sportswear sellers on China's livestream ecommerce platforms. Why? Because they determined that the brands being sold had donated too little, or too late, to the people impacted by floods.

Keep Reading Show less
Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
Latest Stories