Elon Musk has announced that NBCUniversal advertising executive Linda Yaccarino will be the next CEO of Twitter. Yaccarino is expected to take the reins of the troubled company in about six weeks, although Musk made it clear that he's not actually going anywhere.
"I am excited to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter!" Musk tweeted on May 12. "@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."
Musk said in October 2022 that "buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app," reflecting his ambition to remake the struggling platform as an all-in-one site for news, communications, online shopping, payment processing, and various other functions. What exactly he has in mind or how he's going to go about making it happen isn't clear, but he rebranded Twitter, legally at least, as X in April. It's a silly name, but one with some history for Musk: X.com is the name of the online bank he co-founded in 1999 that eventually morphed into PayPal.
"Thank you @elonmusk!" Yaccarino tweeted in response to Musk's welcome. "I’ve long been inspired by your vision to create a brighter future. I’m excited to help bring this vision to Twitter and transform this business together!
"I see I have some new followers ... I’m not as prolific as @elonmusk (yet!), but I’m just as committed to the future of this platform. Your feedback is VITAL to that future. I’m here for all of it. Let’s keep the conversation going and build Twitter 2.0 together!"
Thank you @elonmusk! I’ve long been inspired by your vision to create a brighter future. I’m excited to help bring this vision to Twitter and transform this business together! https://t.co/BcvySu7K76May 13, 2023
As the BBC noted, fewer than 10% of Fortune 500 tech companies are headed by women, which is one reason Yaccarino's hiring is notable. Before this, she spent 15 years at Turner Entertainment and oversaw the launch of its streaming service before moving to NBCUniversal, where she was chair of advertising sales and played a role in helping launch that company's Peacock streaming service.
Yaccarino's appointment has also led to speculation that she'll be a victim of the so-called "glass cliff," which is essentially the opposite of a glass ceiling: The term is used to describe situations in which a woman is hired for a top position in the midst of a crisis, which basically sets them up to fail (and prevents a man from wearing the failure).
"Her credentials are impeccable and she's been extremely successful so far. But she's also been in settings where her success was achievable," Santa Clara University business professor Jo-Ellen Pozner told CTV News. "I mean no disrespect to her or to diminish her in the least. I just think that this is an impossible situation for basically anybody."
That's a particular risk for Yaccarino given that Musk has previously said that he will be remaining as the executive chairman of Twitter—essentially, Yaccarino's boss—as well as the chief technical officer, "overseeing product, software, and sysops."
Musk is also facing blowback over Yaccarino's selection from some of his most ardent followers because of her connections to the World Economic Forum, which Musk has previously been highly critical of: In January, for instance, he accused it of "becoming an unelected world government that the people never asked for and don’t want." Yaccarino is the executive chair of the WEF's Taskforce on Future of Work.
In response to a tweet about free speech from far-right podcaster Alex Lorusso, Musk said that "the commitment to open source transparency and accepting a wide range of viewpoints remains unchanged," while he told radical anti-trans campaigner Chris Elston that he remains "adamant about defending free speech, even if it means losing money."
The commitment to open source transparency and accepting a wide range of viewpoints remains unchangedMay 12, 2023
But Musk's commitment to anything is tenuous at best. Despite his talk about "free speech," for instance, over the weekend he agreed to a Turkish government request to censor tweets coming from opposition parties, one day ahead of the country's tightly contested elections. If the pushback against Yaccarino continues, or if Musk just changes his mind one day, she could find herself going over that glass cliff even sooner than anyone expects.