After 15 years in leadership Twitter’s founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, stepped down on Monday as the company announced Parag Agrawal as its new CEO.
While intentions may be good, the new CEO’s policy has attracted criticism for its vagueness and potential inhibition of the posting of important, exposing content.
In a statement, Twitter has said that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm” and that it is therefore banning “media of private individuals without the permission of the person(s) depicted.”
Twitter furthered that this update will allow its moderators “to take action on media that is shared without any explicit abusive content, provided it’s posted without the consent of the person depicted.” It did note, however, that users may share pictures or videos “as part of a newsworthy event due to public interest value, and this might outweigh the safety risks to a person.”
The bulk of public concern lies here, in the phrasing’s vagueness and notion that Twitter will become the judge of content’s newsworthiness or “public interest value.”
not sure anyone has heard but,
I resigned from Twitter pic.twitter.com/G5tUkSSxkl
— jack⚡️ (@jack) November 29, 2021
In a number of probing questions, Evan Greer, director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, asked, “If activists protest outside, say, the new CEO of Twitter’s house and tweet a photo of the protest, is that covered? If a trans person films someone verbally harassing them, is that covered?”
Greer further observed that “Without more transparency and safeguards in place, it just seems like this is a policy that will be abused by people with power to censor legitimate online criticism.”
As Twitter’s new CEO, and the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Parag Agrawal has taken the helm at a contentious time for media censorship and more broadly, free speech debates.
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) November 30, 2021
The new policy isn’t the only controversy Agrawal is facing. As the new Millenial CEO of the company, it’s only natural that he may have spent a fair bit of time on the app himself as a user and all of a sudden, Agrawal is finding his old Tweets are under some serious scrutiny from conservatives in the US.
In a tweet dated October 2010 (ages ago), Agrawal wrote, “If they are not gonna make a distinction between muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists.”
The tweet was simply a direct quote from a Daily Show segment, however, many Twitter users have been quick to jump at anything they may find incriminating while coming to terms with the CEO’s new policy.
Agrawal’s views on balancing freedom of speech and fighting misinformation were made somewhat apparent in a 2020 comment, “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation.”
Twitter’s new CEO seems to argue that the company’s role, rather than deciding on what is and is not true, is to curate the content of and contribute to “healthier” public debates.
Agrawal’s youth may end up providing him with the much-needed experience in an online world full of trolls while he navigates through his new position.