Twitter’s CEO is leaving. The storms that consumed his firm received’t finish.

Dorsey made waves in Washington when he steered the company to the center of partisan feuds, including Twitter’s decisions to ban political ads ahead of the 2020 election, aggressively reviewing misinformation, and permanently suspending Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol .

This file photo dated November 19, 2015 shows the interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. | Richard Drew, File / AP Photo

He’s also angered lawmakers by trolling them on Twitter and exacerbating his company’s longstanding rivalry with larger, far richer competitor Facebook.

Twitter showed no immediate indication that it intends to deviate from the path taken by Dorsey, who in recent years has installed a politically minded lieutenant and created ethical teams at the company to guide these types of decisions. But every change at the top of the company offers at least the prospect of a fresh start with the Twitter critics in Washington.

“There are a number of areas where the company is likely to want to step back and do a reset,” said Adam Sharp, who founded Twitter’s policy team and left the company in 2016. Sharp said Twitter will likely need to reconsider its guidelines on political speech, including whether elected officials should “face certain safeguards or restrictions that do not apply to traditional individuals” and how to deal with misinformation.

Ory Rinat, who served as the White House’s chief digital officer between 2017 and 2020, said he believes Twitter has seen a “slump in its relevance” in politics and advocacy, especially after it banned political advertising. This is what the new CEO has to deal with, he said.

“Twitter has become a journalist platform for users in Washington, and it is the least widely used of the major platforms for the general public,” said Rinat, now CEO of influencer marketing technology platform Urban Legend. “The innovation on Twitter seems to have stalled.”

Agrawal, a machine learning expert who has been Twitter’s chief technology officer since 2017, has shown no obvious signs of inclination to reverse course.

Like Dorsey himself, Agrawal has spoken of a global public interest political speech as an important part of the discourse on Twitter. He said shortly before the 2020 election that “there is certain content from elected officials that is important for the public to see and hear”. But he told MIT Technology Review at the time that it was difficult to specify what constitutes “healthy public conversation” and added that defining misinformation is “the existential question of our time.”

Some conservatives said they saw little chance of change on Twitter with or without Dorsey, especially in the struggle over what is known as the ubiquitous censorship of the right in Silicon Valley. “The communists will soon be running Twitter,” right-wing commentator Candace Owens tweeted after news of Dorsey’s departure became known.

This is the right attitude. I’ve been telling people this for years. Jack Dorsey is not your enemy. He is a prisoner of his own company.
It’s good that the Parler app finally works properly and looks fantastic. The communists will soon be fully operating Twitter.

– Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) November 29, 2021

But the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, who invited Dorsey to witness last year, said he was ready to give Twitter’s new leadership a chance to change their ways.

“Under Dorsey’s leadership, we continued to see Twitter unfairly blocking access to content and preventing users from expressing their views,” Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) Said in an email. “I hope the next Twitter CEO actually makes important changes that embrace freedom of expression and don’t censor conservative viewpoints.”

A change is overdue, said Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Chairman of the Conservative Republican Studies Committee, who was suspended from Twitter last month after the company said it had made comments about a Biden government official against his hateful Violate behavior guidelines who is transgender.

“The fact that a change in leadership in a technology company is rightly viewed as a political event with grave implications for freedom of expression tells you all you need to know,” said Banks. “Twitter cannot be more powerful than elected representatives.”

Some GOP characters have already started searching Agrawal’s old tweets and public statements for ammunition for these fights. This includes an eleven-year-old tweet in which Agrawal – who had not yet joined Twitter – wrote that “if they will not differentiate between Muslims and extremists, why should I distinguish between whites and racists”.

Agrawal was quick to spot at the time that he was quoting a correspondent from “The Daily Show,” but the original tweet garnered thousands of retweets and quote tweets on Monday.

Twitter's Parag_Agrawal

Parag Agrawal has been named Twitter’s new CEO. | Ellian Raffoul / Courtesy Twitter via AP

In a 2020 interview with MIT Technology Review, Agrawal responded to a question about balancing protecting the First Amendment and combating disinformation by saying, “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is is to serve a healthy public conversation. ”And that, he said, raises questions about Twitter’s decisions to promote some types of content to others.

Courts have repeatedly ruled that unlike the government, social media companies like Twitter are not prohibited by the First Amendment from restricting user speech.

“It looks like we’ve gotten worse,” said Jim Jordan, senior Republican on the House Justice Committee. “Some of Parag’s comments raise concerns about his respect for freedom of expression.”

Meanwhile, Democrats see misinformation and extremist content as more pressing issues that Agrawal needs to address.

“Twitter still has a lot to do with regard to worrying issues the platform is facing, including the spread of hate speech, disinformation and incitement to violence,” said Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), Chair of the Subcommittee on Privacy and Security Senate Technology, in an email Monday.

Twitter “needs a principled guardian who upholds its policies and is ready to take bold action to protect democracies,” said Jan Schakowsky, chairman of House Energy and Commerce, whose panel testified in Dorsey earlier this year. She also complained that Twitter “continues to do invasive surveillance advertising and flatter Wall Street.”

Twitter stressed that the company’s decisions about content moderation come from its trust and security team – not the CEO. “We have known for years that policy enforcement decisions are made by our trust and security team reporting to our Law, Order, and Trust and Security Director Vijaya Gadde,” said Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough. “Jack is aware of these decisions.”

Rosborough didn’t respond to questions about whether Twitter intends to lift its ban on political advertising or Trump’s suspension.

Gadde was central to the decision to ban Trump from the platform in January. Dorsey, who was in French Polynesia at the time, ejected Gadde despite his own concerns about the move, the New York Times reported.

Gadde is one of the most important fixed points in Dorsey’s tenure, which will remain in effect for the time being. In a tweet on Monday, she quoted author Salman Rushdie: “Any story worth its money can shake up a little.”

Dorsey, whose last tenure as CEO began in 2015, will serve on Twitter’s board of directors through mid-2022. He’s also still the CEO of the payment company Square.

As CEO, Agrawal will be forced to go his own way as a democratically-led Washington is considering revising Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that allows social media platforms to file lawsuits about how they use online language avoid. The social media industry is also facing legislative scrutiny over the use of algorithms, an issue that has been given new prominence by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Almost the only technical controversy Twitter has escaped is the threat from the federal antitrust investigations and lawsuits that plague industry giants Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.

Agrawal will also have to decide whether Trump should stay suspended – especially as the former president is considering another run in 2024.

Trump was one of the most prolific users of Twitter, firing a relentless stream of tweets that dictated news cycles and forced social media platforms to quickly create guidelines on what politicians can and cannot say. Biden, meanwhile, has maintained a subdued presence on the social media platform – though Twitter continues to dominate political headlines as it fires elected officials for violating its policies.

In addition to weighing some of these politically tense decisions, Dorsey has also pledged to invest significant resources in rebuilding Twitter’s ethics and machine learning team, whose job it is to build socially responsible technology. And he announced Project Bluesky, Twitter’s effort to create a “social media standard that would help better control abusive and misleading information on its platform” – essentially a decentralized platform on which Twitter and competing social networks all share could build.

Agrawal once headed the Bluesky project. His appointment as CEO could suggest that this project and artificial intelligence will be at the forefront of Twitter’s strategy.

Dorsey’s departure was greeted with cheers and some trepidation by the MAGA world, which has escalated its battle against Twitter since the platform launched Trump in January. “Goodbye!” Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager and digital strategist, said in a text to POLITICO. “It was a complete disaster. Nobody has done more to destroy the 1st Amendment in this country. “

Jason Miller, Trump’s former spokesman and CEO of the new right-wing social media platform GETTR, used Dorsey’s departure to promote his own social media platform. “Dorsey’s restriction on freedom of expression is why GETTR has to exist, and I think we should all be grateful for that,” Miller said. “Unlike Dorsey, GETTR is here to stay.”

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