- News media reports speculate that the billionaire could sack the top leadership once the deal is finalized as he could take the company private and bring in his own people.
Ever since billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion, there’s been conjecture on the future of the social media company’s leadership, including CEO Parag Agrawal and top lawyer Vijaya Gadde. Both their futures look uncertain, as Musk is expected to take the company private and bring in his own people. He has taken to Twitter to openly show his disdain for the platform’s existing leadership.
The New York Post, in a recent article, speculated that Musk could fire Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust, once he completes his takeover of the company. The Hyderabad-born Gadde is one of the highest-paid executives at the company. “If fired, she will receive a $12.5 million severance package, which includes the accelerated vesting of a large number of Twitter shares she has amassed,” the Post reported.
Gadde, who has worked at Twitter since 2011, is the key executive charged with overseeing Twitter’s trust and safety, legal and public policy functions. She made headlines for major decisions such as prohibiting political ads on the platform in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. During the Capitol riots in January 2021, she was reportedly the driving force behind the permanent suspension of Trump’s account, “a position that has earned her devoted fans within Twitter, as well as a large contingent of right-wing critics,” the New York Post noted.
Similarly, Reuters has reported that Agrawal could also be on the chopping block as well, adding that Musk has reportedly already lined up a new chief executive. “Last month, the billionaire told Twitter’s chairman Bret Taylor that he does not have confidence in the company’s management, hinting at restructuring at the management level,” the report added.
Agrawal replaced Twitter founder Jack Dorsey as CEO less than six months ago, on Nov. 29, 2021. He was a long-serving engineer at the company and had previously risen to the rank of chief technology officer.
Late last month, shortly after Musk bought Twitter, Gadde called a virtual meeting with the policy and legal teams she oversees to discuss what the new ownership could mean for them, as reported by Politico. She reportedly cried during the meeting as she expressed concerns about how the company could change and acknowledged that there are significant uncertainties about what the company will look like under Musk’s leadership. Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy told Politico that Gadde became emotional when discussing her team’s impact and the pride she feels in them.
Musk criticized Gadde over the platform’s decision to block a New York Post story during the last presidential election, calling it “obviously incredibly inappropriate.” He also posted a meme critical of her and the company’s moderation policies. Musk was responding to a tweet by a podcast host Saagar Enjeti about Gadde, Enjeti described her as “the top censorship advocate at Twitter who famously gaslit the world on Joe Rogan’s podcast and censored the Hunter Biden laptop story.” Since then she became the subject of a wave of personal attacks by Twitter users on the platform.
The New York Post noted that “Twitter’s merger agreement with Musk stipulates that Musk can tweet about the deal while it is pending ‘so long as such Tweets do not disparage the Company or any of its Representatives.’” The report adds that “there was no indication that Twitter, which inked the deal with Musk after deciding his offer was attractive, would seek to cancel the sale because of his recent criticism.
The New York Times said Musk, who has about 87 million Twitter followers, “has called for Twitter to truly embrace free speech and has advocated for open-sourcing Twitter’s algorithm and removing all spam bots from the platform.” He has also “signaled he supports vastly loosening the company’s content moderation policies, suggesting it should only remove content if it is required by law,” the Times report said. “That would be a huge shift for the company, which has spent years creating elaborate guidelines to reduce the amount of vitriolic and threatening content on its platform” the report added.
There is also a fear that Musk could allow banned figures back onto the platform, including former president Donald Trump, who has denied that he wants to return after his account was permanently suspended in January 2021. However, The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that Musk is “dismayed” that Trump remains banned.
In the same meeting where Gadde reportedly broke down, CEO Agrawal was questioned by employees about more specifics about the deal and the future of the company. Taking Gadde’s example, they wondered if Musk would subject them to public scorn and harassment.
Answering them, Agrawal “did not deny that there would be layoffs and admitted that things under Musk are likely to be different,” Business Insider reported. He also admitted to having some regrets. “I wish we had done better with lots of things,” he said. Still, he tried to end on a positive note, telling employees to look at such a time of change as “an opportunity.”
Following the news and the updates, Twitter has been divided between supporters and critics of both Gadde and Agrawal.
There has been a show of support for Gadde, and criticism of Musk, from current and former employees. A group of female Twitter employees, under the handle @TwitterWomen, posted “the women at Twitter are the best of us” while the platform’s former chief executive, Dick Costolo, accused Musk of “making an executive at the company you just bought the target of harassment and threats.”
Twitter user BrhastacharVinash Ramana noted how “desi executives like Parag and Vijaya Gadde are scapegoated while Jack Dorsey is portrayed as a reluctant Musk supporter. Don’t take charge of sinkingYou will be thrown overboard.”
Similarly, Kara Swisher tweeted how applied she is as Gadde “tackled a thankless task” for Jack Dorsey “for a long time now and he should publicly support her and push back on this kind of toxicity. We saw your high-fives for Elon, Jack, and cool beans, but perhaps show a little respect and loyalty to her.”
Some like former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wondered what kind of atmosphere will prevail under Musk. “Right after Elon tweeted a meme mocking Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top lawyer and safety expert, she began receiving abusive, racist and sexist twitter threats. Is this what we can expect from the ‘digital town square,’ Elon”?
Meanwhile, in a series of tweets, conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza expressed his delight on the possibility of Musk firing both Agrawal and Gadde. “Personnel is policy,” he tweeted. “I’m delighted to hear @elonmusk is getting rid of Parag Agarwal. Obviously he should also fire the other Asian Indian menace, Agarwal’s sidekick Vijaya Gadde. This place should be run by people who affirm free speech, not grudgingly acquiesce in it.”
In another tweet, he wrote: This @vijaya reminds me of the prison guard in ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ He beat up on others with unconcealed relish, but when it was his turn to be held accountable, the vicious sadist burst into tears. Same with our desi consigliere. Cry, Vijaya, cry!
Twitter user Rajeev Gupta, a chartered accountant and a political observer also hailed Musk for slamming Gadde over censorship. “Left Wing supporter Gadde, who has been working with Twitter since 2011, is primarily responsible for curtailing the Free Speech of Right Wing individuals and organizations.”
According to Twitter user Nitin Meshram, Gadde and Agrawal, both “Indian Hindus did so much damage to the idea of communication & Free Speech on the internet that no one could ever have imagined.”