Former Twitter honcho Yoel Roth recalls death threats "inspired" by Elon Musk and advice for new X CEO

In an interview, Yoel Roth recounted the death threats he received because of Elon Musk, X’s declining users and advertisers, and shared some advice for new CEO Linda Yaccarino.

| Updated on: Oct 01 2023, 16:24 IST
Yoel Roth
Former Twitter Trust and Safety Head, Yoel Roth, issues cautionary message to X, (formerly Twitter). (AP)
Yoel Roth
Former Twitter Trust and Safety Head, Yoel Roth, issues cautionary message to X, (formerly Twitter). (AP)

Former Twitter Trust and Safety Head, Yoel Roth, who resigned last year after a run-in with billionaire owner Elon Musk, has issued a stark warning to X (formerly Twitter) about its precarious position concerning the European Union's Digital Services Act (DSA) as well as its safety policies. Speaking at the recent Code Conference 2023, Roth, was interviewed by Kara Swisher. Roth highlighted X's withdrawal from the EU's Code of Practice on Disinformation in May and cited Commissioner Vera Jourova's accusation that the platform is a major disinformation spreader. Roth believes that a confrontation with EU regulators is now inevitable, given the DSA's severe penalties of up to 6% of global annual turnover for breaches. However, while that issue is still simmering, what really caught the eye was the poignant and stark reminder of what happened to Roth after the run-ins with Musk, including death threats that even forced him to sell his house and move in order to stay safe. Roth said these death threats were "inspired by the company's leader".

Cautionary Advice for current X Leadership

Roth's cautionary words were not limited to regulatory challenges. He offered advice to X's CEO, Linda Yaccarino, drawing from his own experience after Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter. Roth emphasized the need for vigilance, particularly regarding Musk's actions. He recounted the abrupt change in Musk's stance, from initially defending Roth against allegations of a biased approach at Twitter to later making accusations against him. Roth's ordeal included receiving death threats and being forced to leave his home after Musk's inflammatory comments and the release of the "Twitter Files."

In his warning message to Yaccarino, Roth said, "Look at what your boss did to me. It happened after his singing praises for me in public. I didn't attack him, I didn't attack the company. And then he did that to me. If not for yourself, for your family, for your friends, for those that you love, you should be worried." Watch the interview here.

Yaccarino, who too appeared for an interview in the same venue with a different interviewer and time, expressed surprise at Roth's unannounced appearance during the conference. Yaccarino took over at X several months after Roth's departure. However, she assured that the company he described no longer exists. She said that Roth worked at Twitter, a company that does not exist anymore and that she leads X, a new company. She stated that she feels well protected at X despite Roth's concerns and acknowledged the pressure CEOs face from relentless public scrutiny.

The backstory

Roth's experience under Musk served as a cautionary tale. His departure from Twitter coincided with Musk's takeover, and he resigned due to the unexpected turn of events. Musk's public endorsement of Roth was followed by certain allegations (unsubstantiated, says Roth).

Roth's appearance at the Code Conference was unplanned, as he filled in for GM CEO Mary Barra. Yaccarino, appearing shortly after Roth, acknowledged the unexpected situation and suggested she had not met Roth before.

Apart from his comments on Musk, Roth had another message and that was for Twitter users and advertisers. For the former, he said, "Twitter is less safe now than it used to be."

For the latter, Roth said, "Advertisers are not stupid." He added, they should be smart enough to ask for data that can be verified.

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First Published Date: 01 Oct, 16:24 IST