Before Elon Musk took over Twitter, he said he had “no faith in it [the company’s] Management. He made his displeasure clear when he went after Vijaya Gadde, the company’s director of legal, regulatory and trust and security affairs.
In response to a tweet from a prominent podcast host who published an article about Gadde titled “Twitter’s top attorney reassures staff, cries during Musk acquisition meeting,” the billionaire referred to the suspension of a major news organization’s Twitter account as “incredibly inappropriate”. He was referring to the company’s decision to suspend the contract New York Post on a controversial report about US President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
– Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) April 26, 2022
After responding to Saagar Enjeti, the co-host of the “Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar” podcast, Musk posted a meme with a photo of Gadde and notorious podcaster Joe Rogan, accusing Twitter of left-wing bias.
Who is Gadd? And why is Musk pursuing her?
The woman Trump banned from Twitter
Enjeti described the Indian-American Twitter exec as the social media company’s “top proponent of censorship.” She leads the team that moderates content on the platform and is responsible for the company’s security policies.
An article in The time of India says Gadde is “the most powerful media executive you’ve ever heard of.”
The 48-year-old is responsible for some of the company’s big decisions, including the suspension of former US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account following the US Capitol riots. She was instrumental in shutting down conservative voices on the platform.
“The @realDonaldTrump account has been permanently suspended from Twitter due to the risk of further violence,” she tweeted on January 9, 2021.
The decision to ban political advertising on Twitter ahead of the 2020 US presidential election was also made by the team led by Gadde.
Shortly after the start of the war in Ukraine, Twitter began flagging tweets shared by Russian state media and took steps to reduce the spread of propaganda on the platform.
We’re expanding our flagging of state-affiliated media accounts to now flag state media links shared on Twitter. This builds on our work over the past few years to label, not amplify, pro-government media on Twitter. https://t.co/oWuf2VyXVj
— Vijaya Gadde (@vijaya) February 28, 2022
As Enjeti pointed out in his tweet, the attorney censored the controversial story about Hunter Biden that was published in the New York Post. The article alleged that Biden, son of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, had improper ties to an executive at a Ukrainian energy company. Twitter later reversed the move, but not before it was accused of censoring information that could harm a Democratic candidate, according to a Bloomberg Report.
Bloomberg called Gadde the “final word” on blocking tweets and accounts on the platform.
When former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey visited India in November 2018, he caused a storm by holding up a placard that read “Smash the Brahmanic Patriarchy.” When his photo went viral on Twitter, some right-wing activists blamed Gadde for Dorsey’s decision. She had then apologized for the incident and said it did not reflect Twitter’s stance.
The accusation of “left-wing bias”.
Gadde and Twitter have been accused of left-leaning. Musk repeated this in his tweet attacking the lawyer. “For Twitter to earn the public’s trust, it must be politically neutral, which effectively means angering the far right and the far left alike,” he wrote.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2022
When Musk is in pursuit, he is followed by his army of loyal and often rabid supporters — known as musketeers. Gadde became the target of online hate as some trolls harassed her because of her Indian roots, throwing racial slurs like curry and alluding to the country’s caste system.
Others used expletives or derogatory terms, accusing them of “destroying countless @Twitter accounts for telling the truth.” Some called for her release or suggested she go on her own. Some of the abusive tweets were later removed for violating Twitter Rules, they reported Bloomberg. Some of the racist comments were directed at Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, who is also of Indian origin.
Musk is a self-proclaimed absolutist of free speech and intolerant of Twitter’s censorship policies. “By ‘freedom of speech,’ I mean simply what conforms with the law,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday. “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.”
Musk’s criticism of Gadde hasn’t gone down well with some current Twitter executives, including the CEO. While Agrawal didn’t go out of his way to slam Musk, he subtly spoke out for his legal mind. “I took this job to change Twitter for the better, correcting course where needed and strengthening the service. Proud of our people who keep getting the job done with focus and urgency despite the noise,” he wrote.
Former CEO Ev Williams also spoke out in favor of Gadde. “Just to say there are many defensible _nuanced_ perspectives on content moderation plus @vijaya is one of the most thoughtful, principled people I know,” he tweeted.
Just to say, there are many defensible _nuanced_ perspectives on content moderation and too @vijaya is one of the most thoughtful, principled people I know.
— Ev (@ev) April 27, 2022
However, Dorsey, who was said to be close to Gadde, has remained a mother.
End of Gadde’s Twitter stint?
Born in Hyderabad, Gadde came to the United States at the age of three and grew up in Texas. She studied at Cornell University and the New York University School of Law.
Before joining the California-based social media company, Gadde was Senior Director of Legal at US multinational Juniper Networks. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a California law firm. Now she also serves on the boards of Guardant Health, a company dedicated to fighting cancer, Planet, a leader in the Earth observation industry, and Mercy Corps, a humanitarian organization.
Gadde joined Twitter in 2011 and has made some tough but important decisions to protect the sanctity of the company. But now, sources say that like Agrawal, she could be on her way out once Musk’s acquisition is complete.
With contributions from Twitter
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