Twitter VP of Product Trust and Safety Ella Irwin resigned from the company yesterday, she confirmed to Reuters and other news outlets. Irwin’s departure came on the same day that Twitter owner Elon Musk criticized his staff for restricting What Is a Woman?, a controversial Daily Wire documentary on transgender issues that has been labeled as transphobic by many.
Irwin took over as head of Twitter’s trust and safety team after the November 2022 resignation of Yoel Roth. Twitter has massively reduced its staff under Musk’s leadership and is facing scrutiny from regulators, particularly in the European Union, over its content moderation practices. Twitter executive A.J. Brown, the head of brand safety and ad quality, also left this week.
Twitter recently pulled out of the EU’s voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation but must comply with the mandatory Digital Services Act rules taking effect on August 25. As European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton tweeted, “obligations remain. You can run but you can’t hide. Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be [a] legal obligation under DSA as of August 25. Our teams will be ready for enforcement.”
Irwin “declined to comment on the reason for her departure in an interview with The Wall Street Journal,” the newspaper reported. “She said she felt she had always been honest in her work. Irwin, who joined Twitter about a year ago, had publicly defended the company’s actions since Musk took over as she navigated a high-profile and often-scrutinized role handling content-moderation decisions.”
Roth explained his resignation in November. He stayed at Twitter for a short time after Musk took over but said, “One of my limits was if Twitter starts being ruled by dictatorial edict rather than by policy… there’s no longer a need for me in my role, doing what I do.” Roth also criticized Musk’s “rapid-fire layoffs and an ill-fated foray into reinventing Twitter’s verification system.”
Internal dissent over misgendering
Irwin’s resignation seems to have been precipitated by internal dissent over how to enforce Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy, which was recently edited to remove a ban on “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.” The policy still bans direct attacks on people on the basis of gender or gender identity; the dehumanization of a group of people based on gender or gender identity; and hateful imagery that promotes hostility and malice against people based on gender identity.
Daily Wire co-founder and co-CEO Jeremy Boreing wrote yesterday morning that “Twitter canceled a deal with the Daily Wire to premiere What is a Woman? for free on the platform because of two instances of ‘misgendering.'”
“Twitter let us know that not only could we no longer purchase the package they offered, they would no longer provide us any support and would actually limit the reach of the film and label it as ‘hateful conduct’ because of ‘misgendering,'” he wrote. “Specifically: In the film, a father refers to his 14-year-old daughter as ‘her,’ and a store owner uses the ‘wrong’ pronoun in a confrontation with a trans person.”
Boreing said the Daily Wire reminded Twitter that misgendering was removed from its hateful conduct policy. According to Boreing, Twitter then “clarified they only removed ‘misgendering’ from their policy because they didn’t need to be that specific, but that they still consider ‘misgendering’ abuse and harassment.” Twitter further told the Daily Wire “that our own followers would not be able to see [the movie] in their feeds,” he wrote.