In his first public interview since abruptly leaving Twitter, Yoel Roth, the company’s former head of trust and security, said he believes the platform is less secure under Elon Musk. At an event hosted by the Knight Foundation, when asked if he still thought Twitter was safer after Musk’s takeover, Roth replied, “No.”
Roth’s comments are particularly notable because he was one of the few top executives to publicly discuss what happened on Twitter in the chaotic days following Musk’s takeover. Roth, a longtime member of Twitter’s policy team, detailed the coordination that has led to a surge in racial slurs on the platform. Musk often highlighted his tweets, referencing his explanations of what Twitter was doing to stop the racist attacks.
But Roth said that while he was initially optimistic, a breakdown in “procedural legitimacy” ultimately prompted him to leave. He noted that Musk had stated that he wanted to form a “moderation council” before making any major policy decisions on Twitter, but Musk was quick to show that he would rather make decisions alone.
“He was saying things that were consistent with establishing a moderation council, that were consistent with not making capricious, one-sided decisions, and based on that I was optimistic,” Roth said. “My optimism finally evaporated.”
Roth also pointed to the botched Twitter Blue rollout and paid verification, saying his team warned Musk in advance, but he chose to ignore their concerns. “It got out of hand in exactly the way we expected, and it didn’t have the safeguards needed to address it up front,” Roth said, referring to fraud and identity theft linked to the initial launch of Twitter Blue followed.
Roth’s comments come as Musk prepares for Twitter Blue verification later this week. In his recent comments, Musk said there will be different colors of badges for businesses and individuals, and that there will be some sort of manual authentication process.
While Roth said he doesn’t think Twitter will experience a “spectacular moment of failure,” as some former employees have speculated following mass layoffs and layoffs at the company, he said users should pay close attention to whether key security features, like locks and mutes, continue function normally, as well as privacy protection features such as protected tweets. “When protected tweets stop working, run them because it’s a symptom of something fundamentally wrong,” he said.
He also said that while Twitter may be able to improve its machine learning systems, the company’s lack of experienced policy and security staff would hurt the platform.
“Are there enough people who understand the emerging malicious campaigns taking place on the service and understand them well enough to guide product strategy and policy direction,” he said. “I don’t think there are still enough people in the company who can do this work.”
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