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Culture Nov 29, 2021 2:07 PM EST

New CEO says Twitter is 'not bound by the First Amendment'

"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."

New CEO says Twitter is 'not bound by the First Amendment'
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY

Jack Dorsey announced on Monday that he would be stepping down from his post as CEO of Twitter, a company he founded in 2006, and will be replaced by Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal. While Dorsey has consistently come under fire from pundits and politicians alike for appearing to censor and suppress stories in an attempt to uphold a left-leaning narrative, Agrawal is on the record opposing free speech initiatives on the social media platform.

During a November 2020 interview, Agrawal spoke to MIT's EmTech podcast about misinformation, which is defined as intentionally false or misleading information shared in an attempt to push a specific narrative. Agrawal told Gideon Lichfield, Tech Review's editor-in-chief, that the First Amendment was not something Twitter was bound by.

"You're caught in a bit of a hard place as somebody in the audience is also pointing out, that you're trying to combat misinformation," Lichfield asked Agrawal, "you also want to protect free speech as a core value, and also in the US as the First Amendment. How do you balance those two?"

"Our role," Agrawal, "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."

"The kinds of things that we do about this is, focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed," Agrawal said.

"One of the changes today that we see is speech is easy on the internet. Most people can speak. Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard. The scarce commodity today is attention. There's a lot of content out there. A lot of tweets out there, not all of it gets attention, some subset of it gets attention.

"And so increasingly our role is moving towards how we recommend content and that sort of, is, 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."

Agrawal also said in a tweet in 2010 that there's little difference "between white people and racists." The context of the quote is that it came from The Daily Show, where writers were alleging that conservatives make no "distinction between [M]uslims and extremists."

Further evidence of Agrawal's bias surfaced Monday. Agrawal donated to the ACLU so it could sue former President Donald Trump, according to journalist Andy Ngo. "As an immigrant, I have always believed this country is better than this," Agrawal tweeted in January 2017, announcing his $1,000 donation.

Twitter came under fire during the 2020 US presidential election season for suppressing stories that did not fall within Democrat party narratives. These included suppressing stories about Hunter Biden's lost laptop, which implicated then-candidate Joe Biden in international influence peddling schemes, upping the Russia-collusion hoax, and silencing conservatives, like Trump and his supporters, for essentially "wrong think" on the origins of COVID-19.

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