Twitter's former trust and safety chief said it was a mistake to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story: 'We didn't know what to believe'




  • In Politics
  • 2022-12-01 00:14:18Z
  • By Business Insider
Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden  
  • The former head of trust and safety at Twitter said Twitter mishandled the Hunter Biden laptop story.

  • Yoel Roth said the story raised disinformation alarm bells but should not have been removed.

  • Twitter initially suppressed sharing of the story but backtracked after outrage over censorship.

The former head of trust and safety at Twitter said it was a mistake for the platform to censor a story about Hunter Biden's laptop ahead of the 2020 election.

Yoel Roth, who resigned from Twitter following Elon Musk's takeover, was interviewed Tuesday by journalist Kara Swisher in his first public appearance since his departure from the company on November 10.

In October 2020, less than a month before the election, the New York Post published a story that claimed to contain emails retrieved from a laptop that belonged to President Joe Biden's son Hunter. Twitter initially suppressed distribution of the story, citing concerns that it could be the result of a foreign disinformation campaign.

Twitter quickly backtracked on its response, with then-CEO Jack Dorsey calling the decision to block the link "unacceptable." Other news outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, later confirmed the validity of the laptop's contents long after the election.

Some came to blame Roth specifically for censoring the story, a charge he denied in the interview with Swisher.

"It's widely reported that I personally directed the suppression of the Hunter Biden story. That is not true. It is absolutely, unequivocally untrue," Roth said, adding that the story did set off some of his alarm bells regarding disinformation.

"We didn't know what to believe. We didn't know what was true. There was smoke," he said. "Ultimately for me, it didn't reach a place where I was comfortable removing this content from Twitter."

When Swisher asked if censoring the story was a mistake, Roth said: "In my opinion, yes."

 

Roth, however, said he agreed with Twitter's decision to ban certain accounts, including former President Donald Trump's in the wake of the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.

Representatives from Twitter did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on Roth's remarks.

Musk, who took ownership of Twitter in a $44-billion deal last month, has suggested he will release details about Twitter's decision-making regarding the laptop. The Tesla and SpaceX billionaire has decried Twitter's previous content moderation policies, restoring previously banned accounts.

In response to a tweet requesting Musk "make public all internal decisions" about censoring the laptop story, Musk replied on November 23: "This is necessary to restore public trust."

He also said in a tweet Wednesday that Twitter "has interfered in elections," but it was unclear specifically what he was referencing.

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