Past statements made by Parag Agrawal are sparking concern among conservatives who see them as an indication that censorship of right-wing views will intensify under the incoming Twitter CEO.
While former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who announced Monday he’d be stepping down from the company he co-founded, was heavily criticized for his platform’s alleged suppression of heterodox thought, conservatives are starting to have a “grass is greener” moment.
On Monday, commenters resurfaced an Oct. 2010 tweet, in which Agrawal wrote: “If they are not gonna make a distinction between muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists.”
While many Twitter users appeared to attribute the quote to Agrawal, he was paraphrasing a joke made by comedian Aasif Mandvi during a 2010 “Daily Show” segment.
- Others referenced comments Agrawal made in an interview with the MIT Technology Review last year, when he said Twitter’s “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.”
- “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,” he added.
- At other points, Agrawal, who had been serving as Twitter’s chief technology officer, has suggested religion is a “pyramid scheme,” and backed the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against former President Donald Trump.
Conservative social media commenters widely interpreted Agrawal’s statements as a sign Twitter would be cracking down on dissident speech.
The right has long complained that “Big Tech” platforms like Twitter are muzzling conservative perspectives, and some Republican lawmakers have taken up the issue.
- “Big Tech’s censorship threatens our liberty and having a CEO @Twitter that promotes censorship should concern every American,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., tweeted Monday.
- “The choice of Twitter’s new CEO is extremely troubling and cements the company’s intent to silence opposing view points. Mr. Agrawal has called religion a pyramid scheme and questioned if all white people are racist,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Miss., called Agrawal a “new tech robber baron who has even less respect for free speech than his predecessor.”