Elon Musk posted tweets including an excerpt of Yoel Roth’s doctoral dissertation Saturday that suggested the former Twitter executive is an advocate for child sexualization — a baseless trope that leaves Roth susceptible to online abuse.
Musk bought Twitter in late October for $44 billion and has singled out Roth, the former head of Twitter’s Trust & Safety division, and ex-legal head Vijaya Gadde for left-wing bias as he made swift changes. Both have long been the target of right-wing attacks over Twitter’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump from the platform after the violent insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Musk participated in a Twitter Spaces Friday night about childhood exploitation, and responded to one of the participants on Saturday after she linked to an old tweet of Roth’s.
“Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult Internet services in his PhD thesis,” tweeted Musk, with an excerpt from the 300-page dissertation. “Gay Data,” the title of Roth’s 2016 dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, is about Grindr, the geosocial networking service popular with the LGBTQ+ community.
Far-right and extremist voices have long pushed a false claim that LGBTQ+ people are sexual predators who are “grooming” children to abuse them. In September, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Extremism said that “the result of this widespread hateful rhetoric has been a spike in harassment, threats and violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community.”
Musk in 2018 called a British caver who was involved in the rescue of a trapped Thai youth soccer team a “pedo guy.” One of his aides paid $50,000 to hire a private investigator in a futile attempt to back up the assertion. In 2019, Musk beat back a defamation claim from the cave expert in a Los Angeles court in 2019.
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When Musk first purchased Twitter in late October, he expressed support for Roth before the executive resigned in November.
In recent days, Musk has said that Twitter interfered in elections, pointing to the release of emails from executives including Roth that discussed a controversial decision to restrict access to a 2020 article involving Hunter Biden.
Musk’s line of attack has already received some push back. When Musk tweeted that Twitter “refused to take action on child exploitation for years,” former Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, who is friendly with Musk, tweeted “this is false.” Bloomberg