Twitter safety chief resigns after misgendering row

Ella Irwin Pic from LinkedIn
Ella Irwin Pic from LinkedIn

Two top Twitter safety executives have resigned from the company hours after Elon Musk criticised staff at the social network for cracking down on a video that “misgendered” trans people.

Ella Irwin, who has led Twitter’s trust and safety efforts for most of Mr Musk’s time in charge of Twitter, resigned from the company on Thursday night, while AJ Brown, its head of brand safety, has also left

Ms Irwin did not elaborate on her departure, but it came after Mr Musk said staff at the company had mistakenly limited the reach of a video by the conservative news organisation The Daily Wire. Mr Brown’s departure was reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The exits came after Jeremy Boreing, the co-founder of The Daily Wire, said Twitter had backtracked on a deal to let the news site promote a feature-length documentary video about gender issues called What Is a Woman.

He said that Twitter had refused to let the publication pay to advertise the film, would limit its reach and labelled it as “hateful conduct”. The measures meant the film would not show up in algorithmic recommendations, even to people who follow the account, while the hateful conduct label means users must click through to watch it.

Mr Musk said: “This was a mistake by many people at Twitter. It is definitely allowed.

“Whether or not you agree with using someone’s preferred pronouns, not doing so is at most rude and certainly breaks no laws.”

However, he said the film will not feature alongside Twitter advertising. “Advertisers have the right to decide what content their ads appear with, which will impact reach to some degree,” he said.

FILE PHOTO: Electric car maker Tesla CEO Elon Musk meets with French Minister for the Economy and Finances Bruno Le Maire on the sidelines of the 6th edition of the "Choose France" Summit at the Chateau de Versailles, outside Paris on May 15, 2023. LUDOVIC MARIN/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo - LUDOVIC MARIN/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Electric car maker Tesla CEO Elon Musk meets with French Minister for the Economy and Finances Bruno Le Maire on the sidelines of the 6th edition of the "Choose France" Summit at the Chateau de Versailles, outside Paris on May 15, 2023. LUDOVIC MARIN/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo - LUDOVIC MARIN/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

He added that Twitter would update its systems on Friday so that those who follow The Daily Wire would see the video in their feeds. He also said that the controversy would be likely to increase viewership of the video.

Mr Musk has struggled to marry his commitment to free speech, which he says was the reason he paid $44bn (£35bn) for Twitter last year, with demands from advertisers.

He recently hired Linda Yaccarino, an experienced advertising executive, as the company’s chief executive in an effort to improve relationships with advertisers.

The Daily Wire video, What Is A Woman?, features some instances of people referring to transgender individuals by different pronouns to those they have chosen.

Twitter removed misgendering from its rules on harmful conduct earlier this year. Mr Boreing said the company had told him that the policy remained in place, but was no longer explicitly stated.

Ms Irwin had taken charge of trust and safety at Twitter since November, when former head Yoel Roth resigned. Mr Roth said that Mr Musk runs Twitter like a dictator.