Elon Musk has made good on his promise to resign as Twitter’s chief executive officer, appointing career media marketing executive Linda Yaccarino as the social media giant’s new CEO as he pivots from a six-month code review to rebuild the company’s revenue base.
Inspired by Elon Musk’s “vision to create a brighter future,” Yaccarino said in announcing her new role and soliciting feedback from users and other communities, “now I’m excited to help bring that vision to Twitter and transform the business together…. Let’s please keep the conversation going and build Twitter 2.0 together!”
Yaccarino – who spent nearly 20 years as a senior advertising and marketing executive with broadcast bellwether Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) and 11 years managing ad strategy with NBCUniversal Media – will start work around the end of June and will “focus primarily on business operations,” Musk said as he announced an appointment that had been rumoured for some time.
Musk is “looking forward to working with Linda to transform [Twitter] into X, the everything app,” he said, doubling down on his oft-stated plans to expand the platform into a multifocal app environment that follows the lead of China’s TenCent, whose WeChat ecosystem has hundreds of millions of users tapping a broad range of interconnected services.
“It’s crazy right now that content creators will use Twitter to drive traffic to their YouTube video because that’s how they make a living,” Musk told Twitter employees during a town hall meeting after his $61 billion (US$44 billion) takeover of the company late last year.
Users “basically live on WeChat in China because it’s so useful and so helpful to your daily life,” Musk said at the time. “And I think if we could achieve that, or even close to that with Twitter, it would be an immense success.”
There are signs that Musk’s grand plan is progressing, with recent reports suggesting that Twitter’s corporate ownership structure had been changed – with Musk merging Twitter into a Delaware shell company called X Corp.
Musk also owns the domain name X.com, which was used for an early online banking venture that eventually became PayPal.
How free is free?
Yaccarino’s decades of experience in advertising and marketing will likely be crucial in helping Musk monetise X as it takes shape, but her nous will be essential in helping improve the financial standing of Twitter – which was near crumbling as Musk irritated investors, alienated company executives, and tried to back away from the acquisition, and during a chaotic transition during 2022 that became even more so as he fired thousands of key employees.
The dynamic got so bad that, in December, Musk launched a Twitter poll to gauge users’ perception of his leadership – and ended up being evicted from the platform after more than 10 million users voted him out of the CEO role.
Musk promised to abide by the results, and his appointment of Yaccarino fulfils that promise while, he said, allowing him to “focus on product design and new technology” – and leaving Yaccarino to walk the fine line between free speech and censorship that buffeted Twitter’s fortunes after 625 of Twitter’s top 1,000 advertisers froze their spending this year.
A seasoned executive who recognises that advertisers want assurances their messages won’t be juxtaposed with hate speech, Yaccarino spoke publicly on the topic with Musk last month.
She recently hinted at more to come after Twitter posted an update on its content-filtering policies – which include a “Freedom of Speech, not Freedom of Reach” approach that limits visibility of offensive posts but does not remove them.
Just how far Yaccarino is prepared to dial back hate speech to protect Twitter’s financial base is yet to be seen – and it seems Musk himself may be one of her biggest critics as she sets about reviving the company’s commercial prospects.
“I hear your concerns, but don’t judge too early,” Musk recently tweeted. “I am adamant about defending free speech, even if it means losing money.”
Despite his rhetoric, Musk's adamancy was found wanting after Twitter this week capitulated to demands from Türkiye president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreeing to "restrict access to some content in Turkey" amidst the country's contentious, neck-and-neck election.
With that precedent established, just how well Musk balances his philosophical support for free speech with competing priorities – from within Yaccarino's Twitter and outside of it – remains anybody's guess.