UPenn deletes disgraced Twitter exec Yoel Roth’s PhD dissertation arguing minors should have access to sex apps

"Yet, absent from these discussions is even a cursory recognition that the new medium of gay-targeted social networking may be a crucial social outlet for gay, bisexual, and questioning youth," Roth wrote, arguing for the consideration of allowing minors on Grindr.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

Update: Responding to an inquiry from Twitter user Brick Suit, the University of Pennsylvania said that Yoel Roth’s dissertation was "mistakenly closed off."

"That error triggered a pre-set statement in the vendor’s system inaccurately indicating that the paper has been withdrawn. The dissertation can now be accessed on both Scholarly Commons and ProQuest. 

The original story continues below.

It has been revealed that former Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter Yoel Roth’s doctoral dissertation, entitled "Gay Data," has been withdrawn from the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the Substack Contra, Roth’s dissertation was withdrawn from the website as of December 11.

The 2016 dissertation speaks about the potential usage of sex-based apps, similar to Grindr, for LGBTQ youth.

In one section, Roth outlines the problems with allowing minors on Grindr, an adult app made for connecting gay men for sex. 

Citing three examples involving adult Grindr users meeting underage users of the app, Roth wrote, "In each case, public accounts of the assaults are framed in largely the same way: older, predatory men take advantage of impressionable, naive teenagers who have stumbled their way onto Grindr."

Despite these issues, Roth wrote, "Yet, absent from these discussions is even a cursory recognition that the new medium of gay-targeted social networking may be a crucial social outlet for gay, bisexual, and questioning youth."

"While gay youth-oriented chat rooms and social networking services were available in the early 2000s, these services have largely fallen by the wayside, in favor of general-purpose platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat," Roth continued.

"Perhaps this is truly representative of an increasingly absent demand among young adults for networked spaces to engage with peers about their sexuality; but it’s worth considering how, if at all, the current generation of popular sites of gay networked sociability might fit into an overall queer social landscape that increasingly includes individuals under the age of 18."

"Even with the service’s extensive content management, Grindr may well be too lewd or too hook-up-oriented to be a safe and age-appropriate resource for teenagers; but the fact that people under 18 are on these services already indicates that we can’t readily dismiss these platforms out of hand as loci for queer youth culture," he added.

"Rather than merely trying to absolve themselves of legal responsibility or, worse, trying to drive out teenagers entirely, service providers should instead focus on crafting safety strategies that can accommodate a wide variety of use cases for platforms like Grindr — including, possibly, their role in safely connecting queer young adults."

Noting the cases of assault brought forward by app users, Roth asked "Would these assaults have happened anyway (perhaps with different victims) if Grindr didn’t exist? Assaults, robberies, and rapes happen when people meet offline, too; yet in these cases, we’re fixated on the fact that a new technology seemed to play a crucial part in enabling something tragic to happen."

The revelation of Roth’s dissertation comes as Twitter owner Elon Musk takes on child exploitation that has reportedly been occurring on the platform "for years."

Lesley Podesta, Eirliani A Rahman, and Anne Collier resigned from their positions on Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council last week, with Musk stating "It is a crime that they refused to take action on child exploitation for years!"

Despite former CEO and founder of the company Jack Dorsey stating that "this is false," Musk wrote, "No, it is not."

"When Ella Irwin, who now runs Trust & Safety, joined Twitter earlier this year, almost no one was working on child safety," Musk continued. She raised this with Ned & Parag, but they rejected her staffing request. I made it top priority immediately."

Roth, who resigned from his position on November 10, was revealed to have made a number of questionable posts regarding sex with minors.

In one 2010 tweet from Roth, he wrote, "Can high school students ever meaningfully consent to sex with their teachers?"

He linked an article from Salon titled "Student-teacher sex: When is it OK?" which documents the story of a high school choir teacher, Matthew Hirschfelder,  who had sex with a student. According to Salon, "Things get messier when looking at cases like Hirschfelder's. If we draw the line at high school graduation, as opposed to at a student's 18th birthday, it means that a teacher having sex with a 20-year-old high school student could be outlawed."


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