Twitter/X CEO and prime glass cliff candidate Linda Yaccarino appeared at the 2023 Code Conference on Sept. 27, speaking to CNBC’s Julia Boorstin about the platform formerly known as Twitter. Unfortunately, her responses about the company’s direction weren’t reassuring — and also indicated a possible breakdown in communication with owner Elon Musk.
A telling moment midway through Yaccarino’s 40-minute interview hinted that the CEO may have been unaware of Musk’s plans to impose a mandatory monthly fee for users on Twitter/X. Musk announced his intention to implement the change earlier this month, stating that it was “the only way” he could think of to combat bots.
However, when asked to confirm Musk’s plans to turn Twitter/X into a paid website, Yaccarino appeared caught off guard and unable to answer any questions about it.
“Did he say we were moving to it specifically, or he’s thinking about it?” Yaccarino inquired, after first asking Boorstin to repeat the question.
“He said that’s the plan,” answered Boorstin. “Did he consult you before he announced that?”
“We talk about everything,” Yaccarino said, refusing to provide a direct answer while sounding an awful lot like someone defending their terrible partner to their friends.
Yaccarino then proceeded to dodge the question for several minutes, despite it being put to her for a third time, opting instead to divert attention to her role at Twitter/X and to praising Musk.
“Who wouldn’t want Elon Musk sitting by their side, running product?” Yaccarino asked, displaying a remarkable inability to keep track of public opinion or read a room.
Though hypothetical, her question was answered by tittering laughter from the crowd, with Boorstin noting that there was “a show of hands.”
“There may be a few show of hands to get the cute chuckles you’re getting,” Yaccarino insisted. “But I would say the percentages in this room are about 99 percent, ‘Who would say no to that?’ and one percent of maybe personal opinion [and] feelings.”
Musk has received widespread criticism for his leadership of Twitter/X since acquiring the company late 2022. Users and advertisers alike have fled the platform, which is now valued at around a third of what Musk paid for it, and it continues to roll out an endless parade of overwhelmingly unpopular changes. Considering this, it would be reasonable to conclude that the percentage of people eager to have Musk as a colleague is considerably lower than 99 percent.
Yaccarino also spent some time responding to comments made by surprise Conference guest Yoel Roth. Twitter’s former head of trust and safety has been a vocal critic of Musk, and wasn’t shy about explaining how the billionaire had personally endangered him.
“I work at X, he worked at Twitter,” said Yaccarino, ignoring the fact that it’s literally the same company with a different name. “X is a new company, building a foundation based on free expression and freedom of speech.”
If there’s any silver lining, it’s that Yaccarino’s apparent ignorance of Musk’s monetisation plans may indicate that it hasn’t been seriously discussed. This may indicate that it won’t be implemented — or at least not for a while. But if anyone was hoping Yaccarino would accept accountability for Twitter/X’s missteps, or at least temper Musk’s whims, they’re likely to be disappointed.