Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey resigned on Monday, anointing CTO Parag Agrawal as the social network company’s new chief executive and announcing the elevation of board member Bret Taylor, former CTO of Facebook, to Independent Chair of the Board.
Dorsey, who remains CEO of payments biz Square, explained his decision to depart in a letter posted to Twitter.
“There’s a lot of talk about the importance of a company being ‘founder-led,'” Dorsey wrote. “Ultimately I believe that’s severely limiting and a single point of failure. I’ve worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders. There are three reasons I believe now is the right time.”
Instead of reasons, Dorsey cites the people to whom he is entrusting Twitter’s future: Agrawal, Taylor, and “all of you,” meaning the Twitter employees who received his missive rather than its decidedly more dubious users.
He concludes by stating, “My one wish is for Twitter Inc. to be the most transparent company in the world,” followed by a salutation to his mother. But he offers no clue as to how Twitter might become more transparent.
Dorsey co-founded Twitter in 2006 and was removed from the top job in 2008 because the company’s board of directors found his performance wanting. He returned in 2015, but proved unable to match the tech industry high-water mark for founder restoration and corporate revival – Steve Job’s second coming at Apple in 1997. A year and a half ago, investment firm Elliott Management called for Dorsey’s ouster but later made peace with the company.
Agrawal published a note of his own, thanking Dorsey “for the service that you built, the culture, soul, and purpose you fostered among us, and for leading the company through really significant challenges.”
Arguably, Dorsey’s most impactful decision took place on January 8, 2020, two days after a mob of Trump supporters tried to occupy the US Capitol, when he agreed to permanently ban then US President Donald Trump from Twitter “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Twitter, however, has not resolved the problem faced by all major social media sites: how to temper user posts in a system designed to reward provocation, to limit accountability, to tolerate bot-based amplification, and to avoid the cost of human editorial oversight and fact-checking.
Nor is Twitter immune to the current global push for privacy and all the revenue implications that may follow. As the company notes in its Q3 2021 shareholder letter, one of its possible financial risks is “the impact of privacy-related iOS changes, including [Apple’s App Tracking Transparency system], on Twitter’s business and operating results.”
Dorsey’s departure stands in contrast to fellow billionaire exec Mark Zuckerberg’s response to the global backlash against social media-driven civil instability: rebranding Facebook as Meta to avoid the reputational stigma, political disrepute, and advertiser angst that has followed from trafficking in misinformation and incitement for the sake of marketing metrics like “engagement.” ®