Accusing Twitter of anti-conservative bias, supporters of Donald Trump — and a senior White House aide — have waged a campaign singling out one company employee who has posted tweets critical of Trump and other Republications in the past.
The online attacks against Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, came after the social network on Tuesday added a fact-checking label — for the first time — to a pair of Trump’s tweets that contained several falsehoods about mail-in ballots.
Roth, who has posted tweets critical of Trump and other Republicans (including calling Trump “a racist tangerine”), joined Twitter in 2015. According to his bio on LinkedIn, he leads Twitter’s team responsible for “policy development, implementation, and investigations for spam, data privacy and security, information operations, election security and misinformation.”
On Wednesday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, appearing on “Fox & Friends”, spelled out Roth’s Twitter account on the air and said, “Somebody in San Francisco go wake him up [and] tell him he’s about to get more followers. This guy is constantly attacking Trump voters, Trump, Mitch McConnell, you name it.”
Roth has since been targeted on Twitter by numerous users after his past tweets were recirculated.
In response to the controversy, Twitter said in a statement, “No one person at Twitter is responsible for our policies or enforcement actions, and it’s unfortunate to see individual employees targeted for company decisions.” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, tweeted support for Roth, saying, “We are a team with different points of view and we stand behind our people and our decisions to protect the health of the public conversation on our platform.”
Trump rage-tweeted about Twitter’s move to apply a warning label to his inaccurate tweets about mail-in ballots. He inaccurately claimed that “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH” (the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies to government entities, not private companies like Twitter).
On Wednesday, Trump broadened the broadsides and again vaguely threatened retaliation, saying in one tweet that “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.” Another post on the president’s account said, “Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!”
Meanwhile, during Twitter’s livestreamed annual shareholders meeting Wednesday, CEO Jack Dorsey was asked about the company’s lack of response to Trump’s series of tweets suggesting that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough might have murdered a congressional aide in 2001.
Dorsey reiterated the company’s position that it is important to provide an open platform for debate, especially when it involves high-profile political leaders. He said Twitter’s job is to ensure “healthy” discussion. “We feel terrible for what the family is going through as a result of these actions and these behaviors, and we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we continue to incentivize healthy debate, healthy conversation on Twitter,” Dorsey said, per Deadline.
Twitter on Tuesday apologized for the “pain” that Trump’s conspiracy-mongering comments about Scarborough and the death of his former aide Lori Klausutis. But the company did not take any action against @realDonaldTrump or the offending tweets. Twitter’s statement came after the New York Times published a letter to Dorsey from her widowed husband, Timothy Klausutis, beseeching Twitter to take down Trump’s tweets on the matter.
Also at the shareholders meeting, Dorsey, who is also chief executive of payments company Square, said Twitter users have legal recourse for disputes that arise on the social network. While it is not unprecedented for a sitting U.S. president to be sued in a civil case, it is not clear whether Scarborough — a frequent Trump target — would be interested in pursuing that route.