Twitter's former safety chief says censoring Hunter Biden story was a mistake

Yoel Roth boasted about content moderation but then said, "We didn’t know what to believe, we didn’t know what was true… there was… there was smoke."

Yoel Roth, Twitter's chief of safety and trust until Elon Musk arrived at the company, spoke out against the company in an interview at the Knight Foundation. Roth left Twitter due to disagreements regarding Musk's vision for the social network. In the interview, the former executive said that after his departure, the company is no longer safe. This is the headline for the Reuters story that published information about the interview:

Eva Fox, a journalist who reports on the Musk's activities, responded to Reuters:

Elon Musk chimed in, mentioning that during Yoel Roth's tenure, Twitter interfered with an election.

Yoel Roth acknowledges that Twitter interfered in the election and that withholding information about Hunter Biden's laptop from voters "was a mistake." Roth acknowledges the mistake shortly before Elon Musk's Twitter feed to make public the reasons that were alleged within the company for withholding that information.

Beginning in 2017, every platform, Twitter included, started to invest, really heavily, in building out an election integrity function. This was what I spent my life doing from the middle of 2017 onwards. We were focused on not just US elections, but how do you protect against maligned interferences in foreign elections, how do you think about different threat actors in space, and also, critically, how you think about what those threat actors might do. And so, as we were threat modeling the 2020 election, it’s obvious to think about the most influential thing that impacted the 2016 election, which was the hack and leak campaign organized by the Russian government. And so, we would have been stupid not to think about that risk. 

And so, the morning of the Hunter Biden story in the New York Post happens, and it was weird. With distance, and with what we know now, we forget some of the weirdness, but do you remember the laptop repair guy? Do you remember the uncertainty of the whole story? We didn’t know what to believe, we didn’t know what was true… there was… there was smoke. And ultimately, for me, it didn’t reach a place where I was comfortable removing this content from Twitter. But it set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 hack and leak campaign alarm bells.

The work of content moderation is: write a policy, create a system of governance, and then evaluate some new, crazy situation against those standards.

The information in the New York Post was correct. Some of the press has been slow for years to recognize it, but there is no doubt. On the other hand, four out of five Americans believe Donald Trump would have won the election if the FBI had investigated the case.