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A Twitter staffer spoke out about “failing” company leadership — on Twitter

Twitter staff are speaking out about “failing” company leadership — on the platform they’re trying to save.

The New York Times 2017 DealBook Conference Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

The controversy over Twitter’s refusal to ban far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones continues to expand — with many users speaking out against the site’s confusing and often contradictory policies. Increasingly, this even includes members of Twitter staff who’ve voiced their frustrations on the platform they’re working hard to save.

The latest staffer to speak out is an engineer named Jared Gaut, who announced in a viral Monday-evening thread — one that he addressed directly to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — that he would be logging out of Twitter and deleting the app to send a message about his company’s flailing direction.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Gaut joined Twitter in 2014, and currently works as a systems engineer. In his thread, he offered a personal perspective on the good-faith efforts Twitter employees have made to combat rampant toxicity across the platform.

But as he began to describe the cyclical inaction that Twitter seems to be mired in, Gaut sounded more like one of the site’s many frustrated longtime users than a proud employee.

Gaut specifically called out a crucial element of the problem with Twitter’s recent decision-making: As a private business, rather than a government, Twitter is not actually under any obligation to “remain neutral” in the intersection of concerns about harmful, dehumanizing language and free speech on the platform. To Gaut, Twitter’s failure to recognize this fact has silenced marginalized voices.

Gaut isn’t the first Twitter staffer to publicly express disagreement with the company’s recent decision-making.

Last week, another engineer, Mike Cvet, reacted to Dorsey’s highly controversial thread about allowing Jones to remain on Twitter to say that the platform needed to consistently enforce its existing policies, as well as make sure they’re working well.

And on the consumer side, many Twitter users have been trying to force the company’s hand — most notably by sharing a viral thread that explains how users can mass-block the Twitter accounts of Fortune 500 companies, thereby directly targeting Twitter’s most lucrative potential advertisers.

The idea is that as soon as Twitter boots Jones from its platform, these Twitter users will unblock from their feeds the accounts of the Fortune 500 companies — essentially holding their engagement with both the platform and the advertisers hostage in exchange for Jones’s banning.

Twitter has yet to respond publicly to Gaut, or to comment on the user-driven Fortune 500 campaign. But Dorsey did reply to Cvet on Twitter, thanking Cvet for his comments and claiming that the site needs to “constantly evolve” its policies.

On Friday, a new report from the New York Times described the company’s ongoing attempts to crash-course its way toward an effective solution in the wake of the backlash over Jones. But the feeling among many users and critics is that Twitter doesn’t need more evolution. Rather, it needs to consistently and clearly enforce its existing rules using a consistent and clear value system, instead of making up what appear to be convoluted exceptions to those policies and creating the perception that it will do anything to allow certain powerful figures to remain on the site, no matter what they say.

As for Gaut, he ended his thread by expressing apparent skepticism at what looks to be an upcoming Twitter staff meeting to discuss the progress the company is making — scheduled for October 1, almost two months from now.

Neither Gaut nor Twitter immediately responded to a request for comment.