Trump supporters target Twitter employee after fact check

Update: Jack Dorsey tweeted that he's accountable for Twitter's actions.

Sponsored Links

In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with a President Trump's picture shown in the background on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. - US President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to shutter social media platforms after Twitter for the first time acted against his false tweets, prompting the enraged Republican to double down on unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories. Twitter tagged two of Trump's tweets in which he claimed that more mail-in voting would lead to what he called a "Rigged Election" this November. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
OLIVIER DOULIERY via Getty Images

Twitter’s decision to fact check Donald Trump has resulted in has resulted in mass harassment of one of its employees — even though Twitter says the choice was made by a group, not one individual.

When Twitter opted to fact check Trump’s tweets Tuesday — a first for the company — the backlash was swift. The president tweeted that the company was “stifling free speech” and that he would “not allow it to happen.”

Then, in an interview with Fox News Wednesday morning, Kellyanne Conway singled out one Twitter employee by name: Yoel Roth, the company’s head of site integrity. Referring to him as the “head of integrity,” Conway spelled out his Twitter handle and said “somebody in San Francisco go wake him up and tell him he's about to get more followers.”

Conway also claimed that Roth is “constantly attacking Trump voters,” an apparent reference to years-old tweets criticizing the Trump Administration. Fox News also seized on the comments and stated that Roth was “in charge” of Twitter’s decision to fact-check the president. Trump’s sons and Trump’s official campaign account also shared tweets singling out Roth to their millions of followers.

Twitter confirmed that Roth was not singlehandedly responsible for the decision to fact check Trump. Roth is part of Twitter’s larger trust and safety team, which makes policy decisions. As others have pointed out, Roth primarily deals with platform abuse  — misuse of the company’s API, spam and bot campaigns — not fact checking or content decisions.

“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,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. 

But Twitter’s comments have done little to quiet the angry mob of Trump supporters, many of whom have long accused the company of being biased against conservatives. Over the last day, Roth has been inundated with harassment and even death threats, Protocol reported.

For Twitter, the incident is yet another reminder of how much work it still needs to do if it hopes to fix its harassment problem. For all of the new reply-limiting controls and anti-bullying tools, there’s little any one user can do when thousands of users swarm one person all at once.

Update (11:30 PM ET): CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that “...there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this.” He disputed a characterization that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made in an interview with Fox, saying that “This does not make us an “arbiter of truth.” Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.” Finally, he also indicated that Twitter is “updating” the link on Trump’s tweets to make it more clear why these statements may be misleading.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Popular on Engadget