Elon Musk named Linda Yaccarino CEO of his social media company on Friday, tasking the career media executive with running business operations at Twitter. Who is she? What’s her background? And why has her appointment gotten many netizens and Musk supporters riled up?
Veteran media executive Linda Yaccarino stepped down from her job as head of advertising at US media giant NBCUniversal on Friday to accept the job of chief executive officer of Twitter, a move announced via tweet by Elon Musk.
I am excited to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter!@LindaYacc will focus primarily on business operations, while I focus on product design & new technology.
Looking forward to working with Linda to transform this platform into X, the everything app. https://t.co/TiSJtTWuky
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2023
The businessman said he’s “looking forward to working with Linda to transform this platform into X, the everything app” – a mysterious new internet service announced by Musk last year which experts expect will emulate social media giants like China’s WeChat by incorporating messaging with video chat, games, online shopping and food delivery, among other options.
Yaccarino is set to start at her new job in about six weeks’ time, with Musk to step down as CEO of the company he bought last October.
The South African-born billionaire oversaw a major shakeup of Twitter after acquiring it, cutting 80% of its workforce (including thousands of workers tasked with censoring at the behest of the US government and multinational corporations, a revelation made through the “Twitter Files” series).
The “Twitter Files” were the direct result of Musk providing a handful of journalists with thousands of internal documents that showed how Twitter carried out censorship campaigns against a variety of stories from Hunter Biden’s laptop to the efficacy of Covid jabs.
Musk’s time as CEO also saw the entrepreneur introduce a range of smaller reforms and momentarily engage in a battle of sorts after slapping Western media outlets with a “state-media” tag, the same label previously applied to state media from Russia, China and Iran. The label has since been axed entirely.
Given Musk’s self-professed commitments to free speech, Yaccarino’s appointment as CEO may seem like an odd choice given publicly available details on her career show no signs of a drive to speak truth to power or challenge the system. Quite the opposite, in fact.
After receiving a degree in liberal arts and telecommunications from Penn State in 1985, Yaccarino spent nearly 20 years as an ad and sales executive for cable network TNT and its parent company Warner Bros. Discovery – a major US media conglomerate. In 2011, she was hired to do the same job at NBCUniversal. Yaccarino’s biggest accomplishment at NBCUniversal was overseeing the creation of Peacock – an ad-based streaming platform.
Yaccarino effectively lobbied Musk to gain the businessman’s good graces, expressing interest in working with Twitter, inviting him to a recent media conference in Miami, praising his work ethic and “no-nonsense approach” to business, and making clear that she would like to be Twitter’s CEO.
Red Flags Galore
Yaccarino’s LinkedIn profile states that she has been chairwoman of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) task force on the future of work since 2019. She has also presided over the President’s Council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition, and pushed a $50 million media Covid-19 vaccination drive through the Ad Council – a long-operating US government cutout posing as a non-profit, in 2020.
Musk himself has repeatedly criticized the WEF as an “unelected world government that the people never asked for and don’t want,” and has accused the mainstream media of “covering up” vaccination side effects while revealing that he himself suffered “major side effects” after taking a booster, and that a family member received even worse injuries.
WEF is increasingly becoming an unelected world government that the people never asked for and don’t want
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 18, 2023
Yaccarino’s support for state and corporate positions on these two issues of concern to Musk have led to fears about the future at Twitter – and whether it will remain a bastion of free speech or return to pre-2022-style censorship.
“I just don’t understand why you would choose someone even remotely affiliated with the WEF when someone in Elon’s position could bring in essentially anyone in the world,” one frustrated Musk follower tweeted in the wake of Yaccarino’s appointment.
“She’s probably been at the forefront of the stuff that encourages censorship for a long time. I don’t trust her to promote free speech,” another wrote.
“During her interview with you, she was most excited about your initiative to limit reach of tweets which are deemed hateful. ‘Freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’. In fact, that was her main selling point to the advertising execs in the audience, as she kept coming back to it,” another person pointed out. “She’s not here to improve the user experience. She wants Twitter to be a ‘safe space.’”
The same user also pointed to Yaccarino’s penchant for supporting “woke” social justice initiatives during her tenure at NBC, such as support for diversity-based employment quotas, and that the company spent $100 million on various “woke” efforts.
Musk, for his part, has been a steady critic of what he’s referred to as the “woke mind virus,” saying in a recent interview that the US needs to be “very cautious about anything that is anti-meritocratic and anything that results in the suppression of free speech.”
While some blasted Musk for “trashing his brand – kind of like Bud Light” by hiring the lifelong media exec, others encouraged people to give Yaccarino “a chance,” suggesting she “may be more complex than her bio tells you,” or taking “a wait and see attitude.” A few expressed a glimmer of hope that maybe there’s something we don’t know, and that Musk may be somehow “playing 5D chess” with the appointment.
Some took a more conspiratorial approach, asking whether this “off” appointment was the result of Musk and his family being “coerced” or “threatened” by the powers that be in the world.
Others still expressed concern that the move comes on the heels of the announcement that fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson will be starting a show on Twitter, asking if the decision to hire Yaccarino was connected, or if Tucker may now lose his new platform as well.
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