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Jack Dorsey’s moment of clarity

November 29, 2021, 6:43 PM UTC

After 15 tumultuous years marked by an unceremonious ouster, a mostly-ceremonious return, public outrage with his product, and an ill-fated activist investor campaign to replace him, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is finally leaving on his own terms.

In an upbeat message to staff posted online Monday morning, Dorsey spoke as a leader ready to depart the stage. Dorsey said the time had arrived for new leadership at the company, lauding the appointment of his replacement, Twitter chief technology officer Parag Agrawal, and stewardship of newly appointed board chair Bret Taylor.

“I want you all to know that this was my decision and I own it,” Dorsey posted on his Twitter account. “It was a tough one for me, of course. I love this service and company…and all of you so much. I’m really sad…yet really happy. There aren’t that many companies that get to this level.”

For Dorsey, renowned for his personal wellness habits and devotion to meditation, this moment of clarity comes as Twitter faces a bit of a cloudy future.

As Facebook parent Meta, TikTok, and other competitors have rapidly added users, Twitter finds itself in a precarious position. The company appears off-track to meet its goal of reaching 315 million daily active users by the end of 2023, reporting 211 million last month. While Twitter soundly beat revenue expectations in the third quarter of 2021, its shares sank 10% following its earnings report due to meager user growth.

Twitter also has moved more deliberately than some competitors under Dorsey, particularly on the acquisition front, prompting some unease among investors. Additionally, Dorsey’s commitment to Twitter has come under scrutiny, leading to a brief push for his ouster from activist hedge fund Elliott Management last year. Dorsey still serves as CEO of payment tech business Square, pulling rare double-duty for two multi-billion-dollar companies.

Wall Street signaled its comfort with Dorsey stepping down Monday morning, as Twitter shares spiked by more than 10% before trading was halted amid initial reports of Dorsey’s plans to resign. Twitter’s stock leveled out as trading resumed, with its price down less than 1% as of early afternoon.

Even amid the uncertainty over Twitter’s future, Dorsey’s departure marks the end of a tenure with some modest positives to point to.

As Meta’s Facebook and Instagram face an onslaught of criticism for their inability to minimize harm from rapid expansion, Twitter has better navigated—albeit imperfectly—the consequences of creating a highly democratized public square. Its stock is still up 80% since Dorsey’s return as CEO in October 2015, albeit well behind the NASDAQ composite, which has tripled in six years.

Dorsey closed his message to employees Monday in typical Dorsey fashion, alluding to the virtues of transparency and cheekily exclaiming, “Hi mom!”

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Jacob Carpenter

NEWSWORTHY

UK says “how ‘bout no” to Meta, Giphy. The United Kingdom’s top competition regulator is expected to block Meta’s $315 million acquisition of GIF library Giphy, a first-of-its-kind attempt to undo an agreed-upon merger by two American tech companies, The Financial Times reported. The move, which likely will become official early this week, marks another aggressive crackdown on top tech outfits by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority. In a preliminary recommendation to kill the merger earlier this year, CMA officials said the agreement would give Facebook undue control over the GIF market, particularly given that only one other large platform hosts GIFs. Facebook executives argued that the deal “is in the best interest of people and businesses in the UK.”

White House pushes in on chips. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will use a Monday speech in Detroit to prod Congress into action on proposals for subsidizing domestic semiconductor manufacturing, Axios reported. Raimondo’s call will escalate the White House’s pressure campaign on House leaders to pass the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, part of which sets aside $52 billion in government funding to underwrite semiconductor research and fabrication. The Senate passed its version of the bill in June, with all Democrats and 19 Republicans voting in favor. American semiconductor manufacturing has fallen precipitously over the past 30 years, as primarily Asian governments have invested heavily in chip production.

Binance patches things up. Crypto exchange Binance is once again allowing withdrawals of Dogecoin after a two-week glitch caused by technical issues tied to a network upgrade, Bloomberg reported. The temporary outage sparked a Twitter spat when Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the issue “sounds shady,” and Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao responded by rehashing Tesla’s recall of nearly 12,000 vehicles due to a technological error. Binance officials said “a combination of unlikely factors led to an unforeseen issue,” requiring a wallet rebuild.

Nissan joins the EV rush. Japanese automaker Nissan announced plans Monday to invest $17.6 billion over the next five years in building its electric-vehicle lineup, aiming to put 20 battery-powered or hybrid cars on the road by 2026, The Wall Street Journal reported. Nissan, an early electric-vehicle pioneer with its Leaf model, has drawn less attention for its EV progress in recent years compared to competitors like Tesla, Ford, and General Motors. The $17.6 billion price tag is twice as much as Nissan’s spending on electric vehicles since 2010.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

International cyberwarfare, at your front door. The Iran-Israel feud is hitting closer to home for residents of both countries, as the cyber battle moves off the front lines and into the streets, The New York Times reports. Over the past several months, the two governments and their proxies have engaged in hacks that target the daily lives of residents. An Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s fuel system caused severe gasoline shortages for nearly two weeks, while an Iran-based hack of an Israeli LGBTQ dating website and a medical institute exposed intimate details of regular citizens. While it’s unclear how far this tactic might spread globally, it’s a chilling reminder of the power of cyberwarfare.

From the article

The latest attacks are thought to be the first to do widespread harm to large numbers of civilians. Nondefense computer networks are generally less secure than those tied to state security assets.

No one died in these attacks, but if their goal was to create chaos, anger, and emotional distress on a large scale, they succeeded wildly.

“Perhaps there’s a war going on between Israel and Iran, but from the little civilian’s perspective we are being held as prisoners here in the middle and are helpless,” said Beni Kvodi, 52, an editor at an Israeli radio station.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Google pulls the plug on e-commerce giant Wish in France for listing unsafe goods, by David Meyer

MicroStrategy has added to its Bitcoin holdings, according to latest SEC filings, by Chris Morris

Crypto bulls send Bitcoin and Ether soaring—but not up to pre-Omicron levels, by Sophie Mellor

Rise of the (fast food) robots: How labor shortages are accelerating automation, by Michael Joseph

The corporate world’s race to net-zero hinges on tiny villages in the DR Congo, by Leticia Labre

An autonomous Mayflower aims to prove A.I.’s captain skills by sailing in the Pilgrims’ wake, by Jeremy Kahn

BEFORE YOU GO

Your vehicle is fully charged. Well, this is one way to solve the electric-vehicle charging problem. Engineers in Indiana and Michigan are working on a technology by which cars and trucks could get an electric charge just from driving on a road, The New York Times reported. The project, which uses magnetizable concrete that transmits an electric charge wirelessly, remains in the very earliest stages of development. Scientists and observers warn that any commercial use remains many years away, if it’s even technologically and economically feasible. But it all starts with an idea and a dream.

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