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 | Fintech

How European fintech startup N26 is preparing for U.S. regulations

"There's a lot more scrutiny being placed on fintech. We are definitely mindful of it."

In an interview with Protocol, Stephanie Balint, N26's U.S. general manager, discussed the company's approach to regulations in the U.S.

Photo: N26

N26's monster $900 million funding round announced Monday underlined the German startup's momentum in the digital banking market.

Stephanie Balint, N26's U.S. general manager, said the funding will be used for expansion and also to improve "our core offering to make this the most reliable bank that our customers can trust," she told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Apple’s new MacBooks are the future — and the past

After years of reinventing the wheel, Apple's back to just building really good ones.

Apple brought back the ports.

Photo: Apple

The 2015 Pro was, by most accounts, one of the best laptops Apple ever made. It was fast and functional, and it had a great screen, a MagSafe charger, plenty of ports, a great keyboard and solid battery life. If you walked around practically any office in Silicon Valley, you'd see Pros everywhere.

Many of those users have been holding on to their increasingly old and dusty 2015 Pros, too, because right about when that computer came out was when Apple seemed to lose its way in the laptop market. It released the 12-inch MacBook, an incredibly thin and light computer that made a bunch of changes — a new keyboard and trackpad design chief among them — that eventually made their way around the rest of the MacBook lineup. Then came the Touch Bar, Apple's attempt to build an entirely new user interface into a laptop.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Imagine a company where there are no meetings — just time for deep, focused work punctuated by short conversations on Slack and project updates on Trello.

Now imagine a company where the no-meeting ethos is so ingrained that it's possible to work there for 10 years without ever speaking face-to-face with a single coworker, and for your boss to not even recognize the sound of your voice.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

#AppleToo activist says Apple fired her for deleting apps from her devices

Janneke Parrish says she was dismissed after deleting Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive from her work devices during an investigation inside the company.

The Apple Too movement is trying to organize Apple workers into a collective movement.
Photo: Bloomberg via Getty

Unlike most other companies, Apple asks that its employees use their work phones like personal ones — and for five years, Apple program manager Janneke Parrish did as she was told. But last week, when Apple asked Parrish for her devices in an internal investigation, she was afraid Apple would see her personal and private information. She disobeyed orders and deleted apps like Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive. Then Apple fired her.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Latest Stories