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Who is Twitter’s new CEO, Parag Agrawal?

 


When Jack Dorsey stepped down as CEO of Twitter, the company he co-founded, the first question on everyone’s lips was why now? — and the second was who’s next?


Dorsey, who tweeted the news Monday after 15 years in company leadership, said Twitter has outgrown its founders as all companies eventually should, and that the time is right for him to go — in part because he has confidence in his replacement, Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief technology officer.

Here are five important things to know about Twitter’s new CEO:

Agrawal started working at Twitter as a product engineer

Agrawal started working for the social media giant as an engineer in 2011 and became its CTO in 2017. He is close to outgoing CEO Dorsey and is said to share his vision for the company.

Dorsey spoke in glowing terms about Agrawal’s ascent at Twitter in his resignation email. “Parag started here as an engineer who cared deeply about our work and now he’s our CEO (I also had a similar path … he did it better!) This alone makes me proud,” he wrote.

Agrawal is now the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company

In taking over from Dorsey, the 37-year-old became the youngest CEO in the S&P 500 — but just by a hair, according to Bloomberg News, which reached out to Twitter to confirm Agrawal’s exact birth date and was told he was born later in 1984 than Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg, also 37.

Agrawal leads some of Twitter’s most forward-looking projects

According to a company release, as CTO Agrawal oversaw Twitter’s “technical strategy, leading work to improve development velocity while advancing the state of Machine Learning across the company.”

In practice, this means Agrawal has worked on some of Twitter’s most future-facing projects involving machine learning, cryptocurrencies and cloud technology, and has been a key part of Twitter’s push for the “decentralization” of social media platforms.

Notably, Agrawal has championed and pushed for Twitter to fund a technology project called Bluesky, an attempt to build that future by developing an open-source and independent networking protocol for social media that different companies can use.

He will probably steer speech rules on Twitter

As CEO of Twitter, Dorsey often had to make calls on how much the social media platform should place freedom of expression above other goals, such as protecting the safety of users, both on and off Twitter.

When Twitter banned President Donald Trump in January, accusing him of inciting violence in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Dorsey said it was both the right call for the company and a dangerous precedent to set for the “open internet.”

Jan. 6: A Washington Post investigation

As CEO, Agrawal will probably make calls on matters of free speech in the coming years, too, and those decisions will be closely watched. Some of his past comments hint at his views on the matter.

In a 2020 interview with MIT Technology Review, Agrawal answered a question about how to balance protecting free speech and fighting misinformation on Twitter. He said: “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.”

Agrawal argued Twitter’s main role in this is not to decide what’s true and what’s not — and to block users or content accordingly — but rather to decide which subset of content on the Internet gets brought to the attention of users of the platform in the service of a healthy public debate.

That is “a struggle that we’re working through in terms of how we make sure these recommendation systems that we’re building, how we direct people’s attention is leading to a healthy public conversation that is most participatory,” he said at the time.

He’s already involved in controversy — on Twitter

Agrawal may be Twitter’s new CEO, but he doesn’t tweet much — with just 3,239 tweets over 13 years on the platform to Dorsey’s more than 28,000. (Dorsey has been on Twitter for about two extra years.)

Still, shortly after Agrawal was announced as CEO, old tweets of his sparked a controversy among some conservatives in the United States.

In one tweet dated October 2010, Agrawal wrote, “If they are not gonna make a distinction between muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists.” It is a direct quote from a “Daily Show” segment on harmful stereotypes, but some Twitter users suggested Agrawal may be biased against White people. The House Judiciary GOP account tweeted a screenshot of Agrawal’s 2010 tweet and described him as “much worse” than Dorsey, while Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) found issue with another of Agrawal’s tweets, this one about religion.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment about the meaning of the tweets.

In his own email to staff, also posted on Twitter, Agrawal hinted at “ambitious goals” for the company and said the challenge would be in executing a strategy to make those goals a reality.

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Will Oremus contributed to this report.

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