This weekend, Elon Musk announced that ex-NBC Universal Global Advertising chief and former Trump appointee Linda Yaccarino has succeeded him as Twitter's Chief Executive Officer.
Interestingly, however, Musk has retained his position as executive chair, and will continue to take the lead on product design and development at the social media site.
So what exactly are Linda Yaccarino’s core responsibilities as CEO, and will she really be able to exert her influence with Musk still so intimately involved?
Twitter's New CEO: So Who’s Actually in Charge of What, Exactly?
Elon Musk initially revealed he'd found someone to take control of Twitter last week, and since then, advertising guru Linda Yaccarino has officially been named as Twitter’s new CEO. She will assume the responsibilities of the role in the next six weeks.
However, Musk is still the Executive Chair of Twitter – which leaves room for him to exert significant control over day-to-day operations – and is still the Chief Technical Officer.
He will continue to lead on product design, development, and delivery, reports suggest.
Yaccarino is widely-known and well-regarded in the world of advertising and will bring expertise and influence sorely needed to a platform that has witnessed a huge percentage of its advertisers jump ship since Musk acquired it for $44 billion last year.
The billionaire SpaceX owner initially wanted advertising to make up a smaller proportion of Twitter’s future revenue – which is why he’s aggressively pushed Twitter Blue subscriptions since his takeover – but Yaccarino’s appointment may suggest his desired change of tack is dead in the water.
At present, it’s unclear precisely how much freedom the new CEO will be given by Musk to implement her own initiatives, who will have final sign-off on the biggest decisions, and whether we've seen Musk make his last round of layoffs at the site.
Yaccarino’s Political Leanings Cause a Stir
Although her background in advertising made her a shoo-in for the role in Musk’s eyes, Linda Yaccarino’s perceived politics have already proven unpopular among conservatives and liberals alike.
As a former President's Council appointee under Trump, whose following list reportedly includes election denier Sidney Powell, Libs of TikTok account owner Chaya Raichik and right-wing Twitter account “Catturd”, left-wingers have been far from enthused by the appointment – but she's already faced criticism from the right either, too.
Yaccarino is a former employer of the World Economic Forum, a multi-national lobbying organization focusing on global corporate and social cooperation – which Elon Musk himself described as an “unelected world government” as recently as January 2023. This aspect of her job history has not gone down well with “Twitter conspiracists”, Gizmodo reports.
Her support for masks and vaccinations during the Covid-19 pandemic – which were both deeply unpopular among Trump’s base – have also been re-shared and discussed since the announcement.
Despite her pro-vaccine, pro-mask stance being at odds with what some Republicans believe, most would consider her to be right-leaning. But even so, this has little to say about just how closely Yaccarino will tack to Musk’s self-professed “free speech absolutism” during her time as CEO.
Winning back many of the advertisers that have left the platform recently, as well as forging new commercial partnerships, may hedge on whether Yaccarino can provide assurances about content moderation.
Can Linda Yaccarino Put Her Own Stamp on Twitter?
At present, it's unclear just how much authority Yaccarino will hold over Twitter. If she departs on a personal level from Musk’s when it comes to questions of what Twitter should be for, and who it should accommodate – or simply considers his general stance to be commercially damaging – things could turn ugly very quickly.
Typically, new CEOs have the power and authority to drive cultural change within a company and have a raft of value-focused responsibilities to deal with upon appointment. It’s unclear, at present, whether that’s within Yaccarino's job description.
Throw in the fact that Musk is, as Tech CEO's go, particularly cultish, particularly attention-seeking, and particularly fanatical about productivity and results, and what her role as CEO will really entail in practice becomes even harder to predict.
Yaccarino’s Biggest Problem: No Clean Break from Musk
With Elon Musk only really taking a half-step back from Twitter, to say Yaccarino is likely to have her work cut out rebuilding relationships with former advertising partners is an understatement.
You’d think that assuming a more detached role would give Musk a better shot at creating the sort of healthy distance between himself and Twitter you’d think would be needed to rebuild relationships with advertisers, as well as restore users’ faith in the social media platform. This seems to be at odds with the new setup.
Regardless of whether the new Twitter CEO role is less about culture, values, and strategic direction and more about maximizing ad revenue, Yaccarino is walking head-on into a Musk-induced mess that is likely to take years to sort out. It looks like Elon really has found his fool:
I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job! After that, I will just run the software & servers teams.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 21, 2022