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Jack Dorsey steps down as Twitter CEO: Key moments from his term

It is the end of an era at Twitter as Jack Dorsey is once again stepping down as the CEO with Indian American Parag Agrawal set to take over. A look at the key moments from Dorsey’s era at Twitter.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 1, 2021 1:17:41 pm
Jack Dorsey, Jack Dorsey Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey Resigns as CEOJack Dorsey steps down as Twitter CEO. A look at the key moments from his second stint as Twitter's CEO. In this file photo, Jack Dorsey is seen. (Image source: Reuters)

It is the end of an era at Twitter as Jack Dorsey is once again stepping down as the CEO. Dorsey co-founded Twitter along with Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in 2006. In 2009, he also founded Square and remains the CEO of the company. His dual role as CEO for both companies had also raised concerns among investors who felt he was stretched thin.

He posted the news of his departure on Twitter, along with the email he sent out to the company and the employees.

Dorsey, who remains one of the best known ‘co-founders’ of Twitter, has had a tumultuous tenure as in-charge of the company. It should be noted that he was also the company’s first CEO, and then forced to step down in 2008, and was made chairman of the board. He made a return as CEO in 2015.

A look at the key moments from Dorsey’s era at Twitter.

Dorsey’s first stint as Twitter CEO

Dorsey was forced to step down as CEO back in 2008. Author Nick Bilton in his book, ‘Hatching Twitter’, has recounted how Dorsey was not exactly the ideal leader, and more interested in sewing classes and appearing at parties, which did not leave investors and other employees thrilled.

According to this 2013 Wired review of the book, Dorsey appeared to be driven by “ego and lust” and would “leave the office to brood, or to go to art class, while everyone else works on the project”. His poor communication skills also added to the problems, according to the book.

It also looks like during his first tenure, there was no backup of Twitter’s database, according to this Fortune article.

Dorsey’s latest resignation announcement

The Twitter co-founder posted his resignation email on the platform. The letter talks about how it is “limiting” for companies to be “founder-led”. Is it a dig at Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, which is now Meta? Given the history between the two, that’s not unlikely. He had previously mocked Facebook during the great outage of October 2021 and when it announced the revamp to ‘Meta’.

Jack Dorsey, Jack Dorsey Twitter, Dorsey Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal, Who is Parag Agrawal, Dorsey leaves Twitter, Jack Dorsey resigns from Twitter, Jack Dorsey leaves Twitter, New Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal Dorsey was first pushed out as CEO in 2008. He remained chairman of the board, though at the time. A 2010 file photo of Jack Dorsey. (Image credit: Reuters)

Dorsey also wrote that for a company to be “founder-led” is a “single point of failure, ” which is a fairly harsh assessment, and stressed that he has “worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders”.

He also praised the new incoming CEO Parag Agrawal and said his trust in him “is bone deep”.

The outgoing CEO outlined why he is not staying back on the board, adding that it is “important to give Parag the space he needs to lead”. He wrote “there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego,” which can be seen as another dig at Zuckerberg.

Dorsey and the edit button

Wanted an edit button for tweets? Well, blame Jack Dorsey for not getting it so far. In 2020, he told Wired in an interview that the platform will “probably never do it,” and that the idea goes against the original thought behind Twitter.

“We started as an SMS, text message service. And as you all know, when you send a text, you can’t really take it back. We wanted to preserve that vibe, that feeling, in the early days,” he had said.

He also added that editing could be used for misleading users and that’s another reason why it was unlikely to make its way to the platform.

Will that change now that Dorsey is gone? We will have to wait and see.

He sold his first tweet as an NFT

Dorsey sold his first tweet as a Non-fungible token (NFT) for nearly $2.9 million this year in March. The first tweet which he posted in 2006 reads “Just setting up my twttr.” This was also the first tweet ever on the platform. He had listed the tweet on a website called “Valuables by cent”.

NFTs are all the rage this year, and basically, a digital asset, be it a jpeg or a meme or file, which is owned by one person. The ownership can be traced to a blockchain or a public ledger, which is updated in real-time.

After the auction, Dorsey converted all the proceeds into Bitcoin and donated to the Give Directly Africa response fund.

Decision to ban all political ads

In October 2019, Dorsey announced the platform’s decision to ban all political advertising. This was done just ahead of the US Presidential elections and was a significant decision. 

He wrote that the new age internet political ads pose “new challenges to civic discourse” given the use of “machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes”. He said all of this was increasing at an “overwhelming scale”.

Jack Dorsey, Jack Dorsey Twitter, Dorsey Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal, Who is Parag Agrawal, Dorsey leaves Twitter, Jack Dorsey resigns from Twitter, Jack Dorsey leaves Twitter, New Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal In this photo, Jack Dorsey is seen addressing students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India. He visited India in 2008. (Image credit: Reuters)

One reason why they were banning political ads was to keep their credibility, according to him. And Dorsey took a potshot at Zuckerberg and Facebook as well saying it was not credible for them to claim they were trying to stop misinformation, but “if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!” He added a winking emoji to the end of that tweet, which made the jibe even more obvious.

He also said the decision to ban political ads should not be seen as against free expression.

“This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address,” he wrote at the time.

India trip and ‘Smash the Brahmanical patriarchy’ controversy

Dorsey faced some controversy during his 2018 India visit when a photo of him holding a poster with the message “smash Brahmanical patriarchy” went viral. He had met some Indian journalists during the visit, and one of the journalists had tweeted the photograph.

It resulted in a lot of backlash and even an FIR against Dorsey was filed in Rajasthan, which was, however, dismissed by the High Court eventually. 

Twitter’s Legal head Vijaya Gadde was also in the image. The tweet caused outrage with some accusing Dorsey of “hate-mongering” against Brahmins.

Twitter on its part said the photo was from a closed-door discussion and a Dalit activist had gifted the poster to Jack. “It is not a statement from Twitter or our CEO, but a tangible reflection of our company’s efforts to see, hear, and understand all sides of important public conversations that happen on our service around the world,” the company had tweeted at the time.

Jack Dorsey, Jack Dorsey Twitter, Dorsey Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal, Who is Parag Agrawal, Dorsey leaves Twitter, Jack Dorsey resigns from Twitter, Jack Dorsey leaves Twitter, New Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal In 2019, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote a long thread explaining why the company was banning political ads on the platform. A 2018 file photo of Dorsey. (Image credit: Reuters)

Dorsey and the decision to ban Donald Trump

One of Twitter’s most important decisions during Dorsey’s stint was to ban Donald Trump after the Capitol Hill riots on January 6, 2021.

According to the New York Times, Dorsey was actually on vacation on an island in French Polynesia when the incident happened. However, he called into the meetings when the decision was taken to ban Trump.

It was reported that the decision to ban the then US president was eventually taken by the legal team, though he did give the final sign off. Later, he defended the move and posted about this on his personal Twitter account as well.

He wrote, “I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here. After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter.”

He was quite frank in the thread defending the decision to ban Trump saying they had to look at how their service could “incentivize distraction and harm”.

Calling the US Capital Riots and the situation that followed an “extraordinary and untenable circumstance,” he said these forced Twitter to “all of our actions on public safety”.

He also acknowledged that “offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all”.

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