New Twitter CEO raises free-speech worries

cuny, elon musk, first amendment, free speech, india, internet, jack dorsey, safe spaces, social media, software, stanford, tweets, twitter, wikipedia

At 37, Parag Agrawal is the youngest CEO of any firm in the S&P 500. Ellian Raffoul/Courtesy of Twitter via AP

Some critics fear Twitter’s new CEO has a worse record on free speech than his predecessor —given his “terrifying” public statements on the issue, an “appalling” new rule implemented on his first day on the job, and a major executive restructuring Friday.

The concern is that Parag Agrawal’s leadership will bring even more restrictions to the site than Jack Dorsey’s — who infamously censored The Post over its Hunter Biden email exposés, banned President Trump and suspended former Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Mark Morgan for tweeting favorably about the border wall — actions Dorsey later admitted were a “mistake.”

“You’re talking about an organization where free speech is integral to what they do. I’ve seen the left talk about how this appears likely that Twitter is going to endorse the more European view of free speech — which is not free speech,” said Dan Gainor, of the conservative nonprofit watchdog Media Research Center.

In a 2018 interview, Agrawal said Twitter should “focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.”

“Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard,” he went on. “And so increasingly our role is moving towards how we recommend content … how we direct people’s attention.”

cuny, elon musk, first amendment, free speech, india, internet, jack dorsey, safe spaces, social media, software, stanford, tweets, twitter, wikipedia

Agrawal replaced Jack Dorsey as CEO on Monday.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Wikipedia co-founder and Internet theorist Larry Sanger slammed the comments.

“So this is how he feels about free speech. Of course. Another Silicon Valley jerk engaging in doublespeak, using what should be an open public square for manipulation and indoctrination,” he fumed in a tweet.

Naysayers didn’t get much solace on Agrawal’s first full day, when Twitter announced it would no longer allow posting images or videos of people without their consent.

Media theorist and CUNY Journalism School professor Jeff Jarvis said the move could negatively “affect how journalism is done on Twitter.”

“If we go overboard in a moral panic,” he said, “it can have an impact on freedom of expression in general.”

“The woman who took the video of George Floyd, if she had not been able to post that video, that case would not have happened and that murderer would have gotten away with it. That concerns me,” Jarvis added.

Gainor called the new restrictions “very alarming.”

cuny, elon musk, first amendment, free speech, india, internet, jack dorsey, safe spaces, social media, software, stanford, tweets, twitter, wikipedia

The concern is that Agrawal’s leadership will bring even more restrictions to the site than Dorsey’s.

AP Photo/Richard Drew

“I’m bothered because Jack Dorsey, for all of his flaws, he came from Twitter when Twitter cared about free speech. He had to be dragged into the safe-space era. This guy is new. And based on the actions they’ve taken on day one, he’s already there,” Gainor said.

Councilman Joe Borelli (R-SI) said the new policy was “appalling.”

“People should have the right to make the most cruel and obscene images of me, without my consent. … Twitter sounds like they would have banned burning the statue of George III,” he said.

A Twitter rep told The Post in a statement that images and videos of people at large events “would generally not violate this policy.” It’s not clear how posts will be reviewed under the vague diktat, which the rep said was intended to protect “women, activists, dissidents, and members of minority communities.”

On Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted a meme portraying Agrawal as Josef Stalin — and Dorsey as Nikolai Yezhov, a secret-police official who was executed and edited out of a famous photo with the Soviet premier.

pic.twitter.com/OL2hnKngTx

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 1, 2021

The rep didn’t comment on whether Musk’s tweet featuring Agarwal’s likeness violated the policy — or on Agrawal’s plans for speech on the platform generally.

And on Friday, Agrawal restructured the leadership team, according to securities filings. Under the changeup, the company’s current engineering and design leads will leave the company, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Little is known about the political views of the mostly behind-the-scenes software engineer, who replaced co-founder Dorsey on Monday. At 37, he’s the youngest CEO of any firm in the S&P 500.

Born in Rajasthan, India, Agrawal studied computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. He earned his PhD at Stanford University and joined Twitter in 2011 to work on its advertising tech.

Agrawal will get a $1 million salary, $1.5 million “target” bonus, “golden parachute”-style executive severance plan — and $12.5 million in Twitter stock, according to securities filings.

He didn’t broach on free-speech or politics in an introductory email to employees. “The world is watching us right now, even more than they have before. Lots of people are going to have lots of different opinions about today’s news,” he wrote.

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