Twitter CEO steps down, leaves company at a crossroads

Nov 28, 2021, 4:45 PM | Updated: Nov 29, 2021, 3:17 pm
FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks ...

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington. Shares of Twitter are surging at the market open on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021 following a report that Dorsey will be stepping down from his post. (Michael Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Michael Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Jack Dorsey is out of his post as Twitter’s chief executive for the second time in his career — this time, he says, by choice.

Dorsey, who co-founded the company, offered no specific reasons for his resignation Monday beyond an abstract argument that Twitter, where he’s spent 16 years in various roles, should “break away from its founding and founders.” Dependence on company founders, he wrote, is “severely limiting.”

He will be succeeded by Twitter’s current chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, a choice Wall Street analysts seemed to welcome, seeing him as a safe choice who will usher the company into what’s widely seen as the internet’s next era — the metaverse. Investors were less sure, sending Twitter’s stock 3% lower.

Dorsey was the social platform’s first CEO in 2007 until he was forced out the following year, then returned to the role in 2015. He is known for his relaxed demeanor, for his sometimes massive beard that’s the subject of several parody Twitter accounts and for Silicon Valley eccentricities that include dabbling in silent retreats, intermittent fasting, cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

He leaves Twitter at a crossroads. The service changed American politics, journalism and culture.

“But it also, it turns out, had a darker side and has been exploited for years by people who want to harass other people and spread falsehoods about other individuals, about groups of individuals, about the state of democracy,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director at the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

In a letter posted on his Twitter account, Dorsey said he was “really sad…yet really happy” about leaving the company and that it was his decision.

Dorsey sent the first tweet on March 21, 2006, that read “just setting up my twttr.” Twitter went through a period of robust growth during its early years, but as its expansion slowed, the San Francisco company began tweaking its format in a bid to make it easier and more engaging to use. While it never rivaled Facebook in size, Twitter became a primary conduit for political discourse and journalism, for better and for worse.

He will remain on the board until his term expires in 2022. Agrawal joined Twitter in 2011 and has been CTO since 2017. Dorsey expressed confidence in Agrawal and new board Chairman Bret Taylor, who is president and chief operating officer of the business software company Salesforce.

Twitter was caught up in the heated political atmosphere leading up to the 2020 election, particularly when it banned former President Donald Trump following his incitement of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Dorsey defended the move, saying Trump’s tweets after the event resulted in a risk to public safety and created an “extraordinary and untenable circumstance” for the company.

Trump sued the company, along with Facebook and YouTube, in July, alleging censorship.

Critics argued that Twitter took too long to address hate speech, harassment and other harmful activity on its platform, particularly during the presidential campaign.

Publicly, Dorsey has signaled that he understood Twitter’s need to change. In a series of tweets in 2018, he said the company was committed to “collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”

“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers. We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough,” he wrote.

The company adopted more stringent content-moderation standards and other changes, Barrett said. “And that’s all to the good, but it’s not perfect, and it’s nowhere close to perfect.”

Dorsey has faced several distractions as CEO, starting with the fact that he’s also founder and CEO of the payments company Square. Some big investors have questioned whether he could effectively lead both companies.

Since Twitter went public in 2013, its stock has been sluggish. It closed at $41 on its first day of trading eight years ago. On Monday, it ended the day at $45.78. Square has enjoyed far greater financial success with Dorsey at the helm. Its stock, which began trading in 2015 around $13, closed Monday above $212.

Last year, Twitter came to an agreement with two of those activist investors that kept Dorsey in the top job and gave a seat on the company board to Elliott Management Corp., which owned about 4% of Twitter’s stock, and another to the Silver Lake private equity firm.

Agrawal is a “‘safe’ pick who should be looked upon as favorably by investors,” wrote CFRA Research analyst Angelo Zino, who noted that Elliott had pressured Dorsey to step down. Elliott released a statement Monday saying Agrawal and Taylor were the “right leaders for Twitter at this pivotal moment for the company.”

While Twitter has high-profile users like politicians and celebrities and is a favorite of journalists, its user base lags far behind old rivals Facebook and YouTube and newer ones such as TikTok. It has just over 200 million daily active users, a common industry metric.

Agrawal is far less known than Dorsey. He previously worked at Microsoft, Yahoo and AT&T in research roles. At Twitter, he’s worked on machine learning, revenue and consumer engineering and audience growth. An immigrant from India, he studied at Stanford University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.

As CEO, he will have to step out from his largely technical background and confront social and political issues, including misinformation, abuse and effects on mental health.

Agrawal got a fast introduction to life as CEO of a company that’s one of the central platforms for political speech. Conservatives quickly unearthed a tweet he sent in 2010 that read “If they are not gonna make a distinction between muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists.”

As some Twitter users pointed out, the 11-year-old tweet quoted a segment on “The Daily Show,” which was referencing the firing of journalist Juan Williams, who made a comment about being nervous about Muslims on an airplane. Twitter did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the tweet.

Barrett said Dorsey’s founder-CEO peers — notably Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — should take heed.

“It would be wise for the founding generation to actually give up control on a day-to-day basis of these entities sooner than they tend to do. I think there’s a natural tendency to want to hold on to your baby and guide and shape it,” he said. “But it’s a very different role coming up with the idea in the first place and refining it in its very earliest years and then running it when it becomes something that has hundreds of millions of users.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Sweden puzzled by drones spotted over 2 nuclear power plants

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Swedish authorities are puzzled by reports that drones last week were seen hovering over two nuclear power plants on the country’s Baltic Sea coast. Police said Sunday that preliminary investigations have been launched, adding the probes are being handled locally by investigators but they are coordinated nationally by the Swedish police’s […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Philippine dictator’s son defeats bid vs. presidential run

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The son of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos defeated on Monday a bid to disqualify him from the May 9 presidential race but still faces other petitions from human rights victims and others who have raised alarm over atrocities under his late father’s rule. The Commission on Elections rejected a petition […]
1 day ago
A medical helicopter rests next to the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church after it crashed in the ...
Associated Press

Pilot of crashed medical helicopter released from hospital

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The pilot of a medical helicopter that crash-landed without loss of life next to a church in a residential area of suburban Philadelphia last week expressed gratitude to his crew and first responders as he was released from a hospital Sunday. Danial Moore was wheeled out of the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Trial against philanthropist and dozens resumes in Turkey

ISTANBUL (AP) — The trial against prominent Turkish civil rights figure Osman Kavala resumed Monday — the 1539th day of his pre-trial detention — without his participation. The hearing is taking place as a Council of Europe deadline that could trigger infringement procedures looms. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s […]
1 day ago
Supporters greet Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko upon his arrival at Zhuliany Internati...
Associated Press

Ex-leader Poroshenko returns to Ukraine to appear in court

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday returned to Ukraine to face court on treason charges he believes are politically motivated. At the Kyiv airport, where he arrived on a flight from Warsaw on Monday morning, Poroshenko was greeted by several thousand cheering supporters. Some carried banners reading “We need democracy,” […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Credit Suisse chairman resigns in wake of internal probe

GENEVA (AP) — Credit Suisse says its chairman, Antonio Horta-Osorio, has resigned following an internal probe that reportedly turned up that he had violated quarantine rules intended to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The resignation of Horta-Osorio, a British-Portuguese national who took up the job barely eight months ago, was announced shortly after midnight on Monday. […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Twitter CEO steps down, leaves company at a crossroads