On November 29, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as chief executive of the company. He was replaced by his former Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal, following a unanimous decision by the company’s board of directors and an endorsement from Dorsey.
Shortly after Agrawal was appointed, right-wing media began making baseless accusations of impending censorship on Twitter by taking Agrawal’s previous statements out of context, calling him an “anti-American,” “anti-white” “racist.”
In 2010, the new CEO tweeted, "‘If they are not gonna make a distinction between muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists.’" As Agrawal pointed out in a follow-up tweet, this was a direct quote from Aasif Mandvi on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. An archived version of the tweet taken Monday morning -- prior to Agrawal’s appointment -- shows it had 15 interactions (likes, retweets, and quote tweets). But after the announcement, the 11-year-old tweet amassed 35,000 interactions as of Friday morning as it made its rounds in right-wing Twitter spaces.
- Red State’s Brandon Morse:
- Conservative radio host Clay Travis:
Alt-right outlet Breitbart condemned Agrawal’s tweet, suggesting it was “anti-white racism” while also claiming that “it is unclear who he was quoting.”
Additionally, conservative figures have criticized a statement Agrawal made in a 2020 interview in response to a question on how to balance protecting free speech and fighting misinformation at Twitter. Agrawal said: “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.”
As The Washington Post explained, “Agrawal argued Twitter’s main role in this is not to decide what’s true and what’s not — and to block users or content accordingly — but rather to decide which subset of content on the Internet gets brought to the attention of users of the platform in the service of a healthy public debate.”
Right-wing figures and outlets are claiming the comment should be taken as a warning of impending censorship of the right on the platform.
David Atherton, a London-based contributor for Breitbart, fearmongered about Twitter bans, tweeting, “Parag Agrawal has taken over from Jack Dorsey as the CEO of Twitter. His former tweets show him to be anti-American, anti-white & against free speech. ... Hold on to your Blue Tick.”
- Conservative outlet Real News Aggregator:
On November 30, Fox News’ Outnumbered panel discussed Agrawal’s statements. Co-host Emily Compagno teased an upcoming segment, saying, “Barely 24 hours and Twitter’s new CEO is already under fire. How some past comments show he could be an even bigger threat to free speech than his predecessor.” Co-host Harris Faulkner later commented that it looks like Twitter “[doesn’t] want to be a platform. They want to be a bullhorn.”
In addition to de-contextualizing Agrawal’s past statements, conservative media figures and outlets have preemptively taken to various platforms to complain about the impending “censorship” and “bias” against them.
- Alt-right journalist Andy Ngo:
- Conservative news outlet The Federalist:
Right-wing commentator John Cardillo tweeted, “New Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal makes Dorsey look like a moderate. Agrawal is left of Lenin. We’re all on borrowed time.” Breitbart wrote, “If you thought Jack Dorsey stepping down as Twitter CEO meant they were going to tone down the woke Leftist radicalism, think again. Twitter's incoming CEO Parag Agrawal is as woke as they come.”
These narratives have also made waves on fringe platform Telegram. Andrew Torba, CEO of Gab, wrote in a post on his platform, “Twitter’s CEO is anti-white.”
Conservatives have long accused social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, of censoring right-wing voices even though such claims have been debunked on multiple occasions by independent sources. Nonetheless, they are now using Agrawal’s new position at Twitter as a way to further foment this baseless conspiracy theory of online censorship.