Twitter’s ex-safety chief says he got a ‘wave of homophobic and antisemitic threats’ and had to sell his home after the ‘Twitter files’

Yoel Roth said Elon Musk shared “a defamatory allegation that I support or condone pedophilia."

Former Twitter head of trust and safety Yoel Roth testifying during a House committee hearing

Yoel Roth testifying to a House committee on Wednesday Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Twitter executives admitted this week (to Congress, no less) that blocking a 2020 story involving Hunter Biden was the wrong move, but former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth may have already received inordinate punishment, as he described a “wave” of online threats when new Twitter CEO Elon Musk decided to resolve the issue on his own terms.

Subscribe to unlock this article and get full access to

Former Twitter executives admitted this week (to Congress, no less) that blocking a 2020 story involving Hunter Biden was the wrong move, but former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth may have already received inordinate punishment, as he described a “wave” of online threats when new Twitter CEO Elon Musk decided to resolve the issue on his own terms.

Ex-Twitter higher-ups convened on Wednesday in front of a House committee digging into the details behind the social media company’s decision in 2020 to block a New York Post story about emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop. One of them was Yoel Roth, former head of trust and safety, who played a key role in the laptop decision. He told Congress that Elon Musk “made the decision to share a defamatory allegation that I support or condone pedophilia, and this lie led directly to a wave of homophobic and antisemitic threats and harassment against me of which Twitter has removed vanishingly little.”

The hearing in which Roth spoke was convened by the new House Republican majority, which has focused on the story—concerning a 2015 email between then-vice president Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and a Ukrainian businessman—as part of a larger investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings initiated by the GOP last month. Since retaking control of the House last year, Republican lawmakers have called for closer scrutiny of Biden and the Democratic Party, and have accused Big Tech companies including Twitter of censoring conservative voices online. And they have found an ally in the increasingly right-leaning Musk.

In 2020, Twitter obstructed the distribution of the NYP story on the platform, a controversial decision that it later reversed. Musk and Republicans have alleged that the decision to ban the story was a top-down order from the government, although the FBI has denied this claim. Since taking power in the House, Republicans have doubled down on claims that Big Tech companies have colluded closely with Democrats, citing the censorship of the NYP story as a prime example.

When Musk took the reins at Twitter last year, he demanded full accountability for the incident, authorizing the release of the “Twitter Files” in December that he said were evidence of Twitter’s former leadership’s “Hunter Biden story suppression.”

The people in charge of Twitter at the time were probed this week by House Republicans, many of whom have accused Twitter of being biased against conservatives and were in favor of Musk’s takeover. But while Republicans and Musk applauded the Twitter Files as a victory for justice and transparency, the former Twitter executives who were targeted by the files described a harrowing experience and a barrage of abuse, some of which was amplified by Musk himself.

A ‘wave’ of online harassment

Roth, who left Twitter in November, said he had been targeted with a campaign of homophobic and antisemitic harassment after Musk shared what Roth called defamatory tweets in December, implying Roth was an advocate of child sexualization based on a 2016 dissertation he wrote at the University of Pennsylvania.

At Twitter, Roth played a key role in many of the platform’s major decisions involving content safety, including the calls to block the Hunter Biden story and to suspend former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account in 2021. 

Musk was frequently critical of Roth and other former executives last year, writing in December that the company’s leadership team often made “controversial decisions” without consulting former CEO and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, a longtime friend and associate of Musk’s. “The inmates were running the asylum,” he wrote.

Following Musk’s tweets about him, Roth said, he received an onslaught of death threats, and was eventually forced to flee his home along with his partner after a British tabloid disclosed his personal address, a practice known as doxxing.

“Following the Daily Mail’s decision to publish where I live, ultimately I had to leave my home and sell it. Those were the consequences for this kind of harassment and speech,” he said during the House hearing.

Roth added that he was not the only executive affected by the release of the Twitter Files, as many more Twitter employees around the world were doxxed and targeted with personal threats.

“The Twitter Files, I would note first and foremost, didn’t just affect me but affected much more junior employees at Twitter,” he said. “Employees as far away as Manila in the Philippines were doxxed, had their families threatened, and experienced harm equal to or greater than what I experienced.”

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat representing the District of Columbia, said the threats against him were “very real consequences” of the online harassment stemming from the Twitter Files. Norton also levied a criticism against House Republicans who risked spreading baseless and dangerous conspiracy theories through their line of questioning.

“By legitimizing unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the deep state, big tech, and government censorship for political gain, committee Republicans are holding a match to a powder keg,” she said. 

While Republicans, Musk, and the Twitter Files have targeted Big Tech and Democrats over accused colluding and censorship, former Twitter employees and government officials have also alleged that the Trump administration regularly requested Twitter to take down specific posts, Rolling Stone reported this week. 

A famous instance was when famous model Chrissy Teigen insulted Trump on Twitter in 2019, which was followed by a White House request to Twitter to remove the comment. That was one of many similar instances where the Trump administration and congressional Republicans “routinely asked Twitter to take down posts they objected to,” according to Rolling Stone.

Anika Collier Navaroli, another former executive, testified that the White House had reached out to Twitter to request taking down Chrissy Teigen’s post. “They wanted it to come down because it was a derogatory statement directed at the president,” she said. She also claimed Twitter changed its rules that would have automatically labeled Trump’s tweets as a violation of the company’s rules, including in the buildup to the Jan. 6 Capitol Riots, to which New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded: “So much for bias against right wing on Twitter.”

Meanwhile, the former Twitter executives denied claims that the Biden family or any political organization had been involved in the decision to block the NYP story in 2020.