yesEmily BirnbaumNone
×

Get access to Protocol

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 | Fintech

Plaid’s COO is riding fintech’s choppy waves

He's a striking presence on the beach. If he navigates Plaid's data challenges, Eric Sager will loom large in the financial world as well.

Plaid COO Eric Sager is an avid surfer.

Photo: Plaid

Eric Sager is an avid surfer. It's a fitting passion for the No. 2 executive at Plaid, a startup that's riding fintech's rough waters — including a rogue wave on the horizon that could cause a wipeout.

As Plaid's chief operating officer, Sager has been helping the startup navigate that choppiness, from an abandoned merger with Visa to a harsh critique by the CEO of a top Wall Street bank.

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.

Sponsored Content

The future of computing at the edge: an interview with Intel’s Tom Lantzsch

An interview with Tom Lantzsch, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Group at Intel

An interview with Tom Lantzsch

Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corporation

Edge computing had been on the rise in the last 18 months – and accelerated amid the need for new applications to solve challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom Lantzsch, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corp., thinks there are more innovations to come – and wants technology leaders to think equally about data and the algorithms as critical differentiators.

In his role at Intel, Lantzsch leads the worldwide group of solutions architects across IoT market segments, including retail, banking, hospitality, education, industrial, transportation, smart cities and healthcare. And he's seen first-hand how artificial intelligence run at the edge can have a big impact on customers' success.

Protocol sat down with Lantzsch to talk about the challenges faced by companies seeking to move from the cloud to the edge; some of the surprising ways that Intel has found to help customers and the next big breakthrough in this space.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing with edge computing and IoT?

A few years ago, there was a notion that the edge was going to be a simplistic model, where we were going to have everything connected up into the cloud and all the compute was going to happen in the cloud. At Intel, we had a bit of a contrarian view. We thought much of the interesting compute was going to happen closer to where data was created. And we believed, at that time, that camera technology was going to be the driving force – that just the sheer amount of content that was created would be overwhelming to ship to the cloud – so we'd have to do compute at the edge. A few years later – that hypothesis is in action and we're seeing edge compute happen in a big way.

Keep Reading Show less
Saul Hudson
Saul Hudson has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, especially in understanding and targeting messages in cutting-edge technologies. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, in helping companies to build passionate audiences and accelerate their growth. Hudson has reported from more than 30 countries, from war zones to boardrooms to presidential palaces. He has led multinational, multi-lingual teams and managed operations for hundreds of journalists. Hudson is a Managing Partner at Angle42, a strategic communications consultancy.

Twitter’s future is newsletters and podcasts, not tweets

With Revue and a slew of other new products, Twitter is trying hard to move past texting.

We started with 140 characters. What now?

Image: Liv Iko/Protocol

Twitter was once a home for 140-character missives about your lunch. Now, it's something like the real-time nerve center of the internet. But as for what Twitter wants to be going forward? It's slightly more complicated.

In just the last few months, Twitter has rolled out Fleets, a Stories-like feature; started testing an audio-only experience called Spaces; and acquired the podcast app Breaker and the video chat app Squad. And on Tuesday, Twitter announced it was acquiring Revue, a newsletter platform. The whole 140-characters thing (which is now 280 characters, by the way) is certainly not Twitter's organizing principle anymore. So what is?

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. 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.

Transforming 2021

Blockchain, QR codes and your phone: the race to build vaccine passports

Digital verification systems could give people the freedom to work and travel. Here's how they could actually happen.

One day, you might not need to carry that physical passport around, either.

Photo: CommonPass

There will come a time, hopefully in the near future, when you'll feel comfortable getting on a plane again. You might even stop at the lounge at the airport, head to the regional office when you land and maybe even see a concert that evening. This seemingly distant reality will depend upon vaccine rollouts continuing on schedule, an open-sourced digital verification system and, amazingly, the blockchain.

Several countries around the world have begun to prepare for what comes after vaccinations. Swaths of the population will be vaccinated before others, but that hasn't stopped industries decimated by the pandemic from pioneering ways to get some people back to work and play. One of the most promising efforts is the idea of a "vaccine passport," which would allow individuals to show proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 in a way that could be verified by businesses to allow them to travel, work or relax in public without a great fear of spreading the virus.

Keep Reading Show less
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Protocol | Policy

Facebook’s Oversight Board won’t save it from the Trump ban backlash

The Board's decision on whether to reinstate Trump could set a new precedent for Facebook. But does the average user care what the Board has to say?

A person holds a sign during a Free Speech Rally against tech companies, on Jan. 20 in California.

Photo: Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Two weeks after Facebook suspended former President Donald Trump's account indefinitely, Facebook answered a chorus of calls and referred the case to its newly created Oversight Board for review. Now, the board has 90 days to make a call as to whether Trump stays or goes permanently. The board's decision — and more specifically, how and why it arrives at that decision — could have consequences not only for other global leaders on Facebook, but for the future of the Board itself.

Facebook created its Oversight Board for such a time as this — a time when it would face a controversial content moderation decision and might need a gut check. Or a fall guy. There could be no decision more controversial than the one Facebook made on Jan. 7, when it decided to muzzle one of the most powerful people in the world with weeks remaining in his presidency. It stands to reason, then, that Facebook would tap in its newly anointed refs on the Oversight Board both to earnestly review the call and to put a little distance between Facebook and the decision.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
Latest Stories