Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo appeared to deliver a terse message to the company’s new overlord Elon Musk on Wednesday: “Bullying is not leadership.”
Musk spent part of his day publicly attacking one of his new hires on the platform, which he said he was buying two days earlier, sparking condemnation from a number of Twitter users and prompting his hordes of die-hard fans to do the same to insult them with insults.
“What’s going on? You’re making an executive at the company you just bought the target of harassment and threats,” wrote Costolo, who ran Twitter from 2010 to 2015, in a direct reply to one of Musk’s tweets.
Musk, the world’s richest man, had started a fight with Twitter’s top attorney Vijaya Gadde, who has been with the company for more than a decade and has acted as a force for change in recent years on a platform long plagued by abuse and misinformation was plagued . She played a central role in Twitter’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump, CNN reported last year.
On Tuesday, a right-wing political commentator, Saagar Enjeti, called Gadde Twitter’s “top advocate for censorship” for restricting the distribution of a story about first family member Hunter Biden’s laptop. Musk responded directly to Enjeti, calling the decision “incredibly inappropriate.”
Gadde reportedly showed emotion during a virtual meeting with her team Monday as she expressed concern about the direction the company was taking under Musk’s leadership.
On Wednesday afternoon, Musk posted an image criticizing Gadde, using images from an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast in which Gadde appeared and spent time defending content moderation policies that she helped create. His tweet claimed Gadde had pursued policies that betrayed her “left-leaning bias”.
In the episode of Joe Rogan, released in 2019, Gadde defended the site’s policy against gender misidentification of transgender people, citing research into community suicide rates.
Musk is widely expected to relax the rules about what people can post on Twitter, which would likely increase the amount of hate speech on the site. Like Gadde, many Twitter employees are reportedly concerned about how Musk will operate the platform.
He addressed the controversy indirectly another tweet late Wednesday afternoon: “For Twitter to earn public trust, it must be politically neutral, which effectively means angering the far right and the far left alike.” But he didn’t elaborate on what kind of “disturbing” decisions he would make.
New York Times Podcaster Kara Swisher, a longtime tech journalist, returned a somber reply to Costolo’s question about Musk’s motives for publicly disparaging an employee.
“What’s going on: He’s trying to get people to leave and it’s a heinous way of doing that,” Swisher said. “He would rather quit than pay them off.”
Gadde has not commented publicly on Musk’s attacks. Twitter declined to comment.