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‘The Badass’: Indian American Vijaya Gadde Plays Crucial Role in Trump’s Twitter Ban

‘The Badass’: Indian American Vijaya Gadde Plays Crucial Role in Trump’s Twitter Ban

Bhargavi Kulkarni
  • The company’s Legal, Public Policy & Trust and Safety Lead, is the final word in account enforcement.

As the Legal, Public Policy & Trust and Safety Lead at Twitter, Vijaya Gadde has the final word in blocking tweets, even if it’s the President of the United State. On Jan. 8, the Indian American played a crucial role, first blocking and then permanently banning President Trump’s personal account, for breaking its rules against “glorifying violence.” Bloomberg says the action is the “most high-profile punishment the company has ever imposed and the end of Trump’s relationship with his favorite social media megaphone.”

Announcing the ban in a blog post on Jan. 8, the San Francisco-based company said: “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday (Jan. 6)  that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly,” the company said. “It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open,” the blog said.

“However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.” The blog post also laid down a comprehensive analysis of its policy enforcement approach in this case.

Vijaya Gadde seen here with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Gadde announced the ban on her Twitter handle as well. “The account of @realDonaldTrump has been permanently suspended from Twitter due to the risk of further violence,” she wrote. “We’ve also published our policy enforcement analysis – you can read more about our decision here.”

In an Oct. 28, 2020 profile of Gadde, Politico called the 45-year-old the “lead architect of the policy approach that led Twitter to clamp down on everyone from everyday harassers to the Proud Boys to President Donald Trump.” The report said she’s “been out front in defending it, arguing that the shift makes sense as corporate strategy.”

Bloomberg called Gadde the “end of the line when it comes to account enforcement — a delicate position in a world where Twitter’s rules are both an affront to free speech and an invitation to racists and bigots, depending on who’s tweeting at you.” Gadde told Bloomberg in a Jan. 15, 2020 interview: “No matter what we do we’ve been accused of bias. Leaving content up, taking content down — that’s become pretty much background noise.”

As per several blog posts published on Twitter, Gadde, who oversees about 350 people, works on a wide range of issues including the current COVID-19 pandemic, pushing back on governments, and pushing for technical changes within the company. 

Bloomberg said “although Gadde operates in the background, her influence has helped shape Twitter for most of the past decade.” Within the company she is known for being close to the company’s CEO Jack Dorsey; the two work from spaces next door to each other, the Bloomberg report said.

Gadde’s closeness to Dorsey is most evident during “Twitter’s highest-stakes moments,” Politico said. “When Dorsey met with President Donald Trump in 2019, Gadde was in the Oval Office with them. She was at Dorsey’s side to meet the Dalai Lama in India. She’s accompanied him to Washington to speak with legislators and meet with journalists.” One Twitter official told the news portal: “I can’t imagine a world where Jack looks at her and says, ‘No.’ Similarly, a former Twitter official said; “When it comes to going to war, Jack is the president who gives the order. Vijaya is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.”

In 2019, Gadde was instrumental in Twitter banning all political ads. “It wasn’t about anything other than, this is the right thing to do for us as a company,” she told Politico in a July 2019 interview. Two weeks prior to that, Politico said “Gadde had found herself at the center of the company’s tangle with the political right, when the New York Post published a story and images of emails purporting to show that in 2015, Ukrainian executives had essentially paid Joe Biden’s son Hunter to arrange a meeting with the then-vice president.

In 2019, Gadde was instrumental in Twitter banning all political ads. “It wasn’t about anything other than, this is the right thing to do for us as a company,” she told Politico in a July 2019 interview. Two weeks prior to that, Politico said “Gadde had found herself at the center of the company’s tangle with the political right, when the New York Post published a story and images of emails purporting to show that in 2015, Ukrainian executives had essentially paid Joe Biden’s son Hunter to arrange a meeting with the then-vice president. As the story began to get traction, especially among conservatives eager to cast doubt on Biden’s ethics, Twitter quickly and with little transparency blocked users from linking to it,” the report said. Although Dorsey immediately apologized, “ the person who did the public cleanup the next day was Gadde, who in a series of tweets said Twitter was overhauling the “hacked materials policy” it had invoked in the case.” The report continued: “As the story began to get traction, especially among conservatives eager to cast doubt on Biden’s ethics, Twitter quickly and with little transparency blocked users from linking to it. Although Dorsey immediately apologized, “ the person who did the public cleanup the next day was Gadde, who in a series of tweets said Twitter was overhauling the “hacked materials policy” it had invoked in the case.”

When Gadde took over as general counsel in 2013, the social-media service had an “everything goes” mentality, Bloomberg said. She told the news outlet that she was “the only Indian child most of my education until I went to college. Gadde told Bloomberg that voicelessness she felt drew her to Twitter. “This platform gives you a voice, and gives you a community and gives you power,” she said.  But over the years the company’s policies have changed. Gadde told Bloomberg that the “company has shifted its approach dramatically [since I started].” 

Born in Hyderabad, Gadde moved to the U.S. as a child and grew up in east Texas, where her dad worked as a chemical engineer on oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, before moving to New Jersey in middle school.

Recently, Gadde made it to InStyle’s “The Badass 50,”  an annual list of women changing the world. As Twitter’s global lead of legal, policy, and trust and safety “Gadde has helped spearhead the social-media company’s ban on political ads,” InStyle said. “We wanted to address the risk that digital ads bring when it comes to driving political outcomes,” she told the magazine. “We believe that political reach should be earned and not bought.” 

Gadde, also co-founder of #Angels, an investment collective that backs start-ups and helps ensure that women receive equal compensation at successful companies, is a graduate of Cornell University and New York University Law School. Prior to joining Twitter in 2011, she spent almost a decade at a Bay Area-based law firm working with tech startups.

Joining Gadde is another Indian American, Chief Technological Officer (CTO) Parag Agarwal, who was appointed in October 2017, to replace Adam Messinger, who left in late 2016. Agarwal is responsible for Twitter’s technical strategy, machine learning, artificial intelligence, consumer, revenue and science teams. As per his LinkedIn profile, Agarwal joined Twitter in 2011 as a Distinguished Software Engineer. Prior to that he held various research positions at AT&T labs, Microsoft, and Yahoo. An IIT Mumbai alumni, Agarwal has a Ph.D in Computer Science from Stanford University.

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