Sep 27, 2023 - Technology

Yaccarino defends X over hate speech rise accusations

Chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships for NBCUniversal Linda Yaccarino attends the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton on January 10, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.

Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino in Beverly Hills, California, earlier this year. Photo: Kevin Winter/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

Former Twitter trust and safety head Yoel Roth accused Elon Musk at a conference Wednesday of ruling by dictate, rather than policy, and decimating the reputation of the platform known as X.

Driving the news: Roth made the comments at the Code Conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., where X CEO Linda Yaccarino described an ambitious, growing company that will be profitable by next year.

The big picture: There is no question that the company has radically changed under Musk. It has slashed staff, cut other costs, reinstated banned accounts and become a welcoming forum for content that would previously have been banned as hate speech.

  • Yaccarino insisted that advertisers are returning to X, that the company is now just about breakeven from a cash flow perspective and should be profitable by early 2024.
  • "The velocity of change, the scope of the ambition at X really does not exist anywhere else," said Yaccarino, who took the Code Conference stage less than two hours after Roth spoke with Kara Swisher. "Forget the other platforms, at any other company on Earth, there is no analog for the book that is being written."

Between the lines: Things quickly got testy when moderator and CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin pressed Yaccarino on how much power she really had given Musk still runs product. Asked if she was consulted before Musk tweeted about wanting to charge all users a monthly fee, Yacarino said: "We talk about everything."

  • As for Musk's involvement, Yaccarino said: "Who wouldn't want Elon Musk sitting by them running product?"
  • Yaccarino noted she did have a productive meeting with the Anti-Defamataion League shortly before Musk threatened to sue the civil rights group. "I wish that would be different," she said. "We're looking into that." She said the ADL needed to acknowledge the progress that X has made on antisemitism.
  • As for whether Musk's tweets were making her job harder, Yaccarino replied that "everyone deservers to have the opportunity to speak their opinion, no matter who they are, including Elon."

The other side: Roth described his experience with Musk, which included being praised for a short time, before being smeared as a pedophile in attacks that ultimately forced him to sell his home and move.

  • While Twitter was "flawed" before Musk arrived, Roth said there were aspirational policies in place that the company worked hard to live up to. Within 24 hours, Roth said, Musk was ruling by fiat and hate speech quickly increased.
  • "By any measure it is worse," Roth said. "Except by Twitter's measures."

Go deeper: Watchdog accuses X again of not moderating hate speech

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that X CEO Linda Yaccarino said that the company is just about breakeven from a cash flow perspective, not that it is now cash flow positive.

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