What will become of Twitter?
CEO Jack Dorsey’s departure could be the opening bid in Trump’s 2024 campaign
Full disclosure: I have a stake in Twitter. Not a directly financial one so much as a personal one. I own no Twitter stock but as a freelance writer the social media platform has been very good to me. Since starting my Twitter account in 2012, I’ve gained a much larger audience. My Twitter presence is almost directly responsible for me getting two big jobs, at The New Republic and The Nation. It’s also introduced me to a vast chorus of new writers, who have enriched my understanding of the world. I’m not alone in this. Twitter, like Facebook, has transformed the entire context in which journalism takes place.
Given the importance of Twitter to my career and intellectual life, I was naturally interested in the news that Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of the platform, has stepped down from his post as CEO. The New York Times in its report on Dorsey’s resignation thought it was relevant to include some political context:
Mr. Dorsey’s exit will mark a significant shift at the company, which has navigated years of pressure from investors and increasing criticism from Washington, particularly Republican lawmakers who complain Twitter has contributed to a stifling of conservative voices in social media.
The most prominent of those voices was that of former President Donald J. Trump, who used his Twitter feed to threaten enemies and keep his allies in line. Twitter banned Mr. Trump shortly after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol last year.
I agree these political controversies are salient in understanding why Dorsey left, but was puzzled by why the Times didn’t mention the investor Paul Singer, whose earlier machinations to oust Dorsey make the political stakes even more evident. The newspaper did mention Singer’s firm, Elliott Management, without bringing up Singer’s name. But Singer, both as founder of Elliott Management and as a major player in Republican politics, is key to this story.
As The Guardian reported in February 2020:
A major Republican donor has purchased a stake in Twitter and is reportedly seeking to oust its chief executive, Jack Dorsey.
Bloomberg News first reported that Elliott Management has taken a “sizable stake” and “and plans to push for changes at the social media company, including replacing Dorsey”.
Paul Singer, the billionaire founder of Elliott Management, is a Republican mega-donor who opposed Donald Trump during the real-estate magnate’s run for the presidential nomination but has since come onside.
After a White House visit in February 2017, Trump said Singer “was very much involved with the anti-Trump or, as they say, ‘Never Trump’, and Paul just left, and he’s given us his total support and it’s all about unification”.
Let’s connect the dots: it increasingly looks like Trump will run again in 2024, Trump and his strategist believe they were hurt in 2020 by Twitter banning certain news stories involving Hunter Biden, Trump himself sees his Twitter ban as a personal affront, Trumpian attempts to create an alternative social media haven’t given him the audience he wants, and Peter Singer (once anti-Trump but now a believer in “unification”) has muscled into greater control of Twitter and finally ousted Jack Dorsey.
All of this points to a Twitter that will be much more compliant to Trump’s 2024 bid. You don’t have to have to care about Twitter as a company to start worrying about where this will lead.
(Edited by Emily M. Keeler)
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