Mike Isaac

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Jack Fights Back: Dorsey Rebuts Twitter Book Claims in New Yorker Profile

jack-dorsey-selfieYou didn’t think Jack Dorsey would take claims against his founding influence on Twitter lying down, did you?

Dorsey certainly didn’t.

Less than a week after the New York Times Magazine painted a rather unflattering portrait of him in a published excerpt from “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal,” the New Yorker released its own profile of the famous Twitter co-founder, in which he rebuts a number of the previous story’s claims.

In the Times Magazine excerpt, Times reporter and Twitter book author Nick Bilton wrote that it was the behind-the-scenes machinations of Dorsey that resulted in the expulsion of Noah Glass, a little-known co-founder and collaborator on Twitter in its nascent days. As Bilton’s book puts it, Dorsey wanted Glass out, and gave co-founder Evan Williams a choice: It was Dorsey or Glass.

Dorsey said otherwise.

“I didn’t give an ultimatum. … I didn’t have that leverage. Ev made his decision,” Dorsey told New Yorker writer D.T. Max. “Ev asked me, ‘Should we let Noah go?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think I can work with him in his current state.’”

Max also offers up other early employees and investors who weigh in on Glass, all essentially siding with Dorsey’s account.

“What Twitter is now — I never heard Noah talk about that,” said early Twitter investor George Zachary. And early employee Dom Sagolla put forth a version of Glass as an erratic personality, seemingly unstable in his actions.

In the version of history that Dorsey paints, it is Glass who gloms on to what Dorsey and another early employee, Florian Weber, were attempting to build.

What we do know is something that all of Twitter’s early employees will readily admit to: The company was rife with drama for much of its seven-year history. It has undergone massive change over the past two years, and is still trying to rid itself of its image as a company in internal tumult. (Whether the “new” Twitter is completely free of infighting remains to be seen.)

My favorite part of Max’s profile has little to do with Twitter’s early infighting. It is an image of Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sitting across from one another, eating dinner — apparently a regular occurrence in the past. The anecdote doesn’t rebut claims that Dorsey considered a move to Facebook shortly after being ejected from Twitter, as Bilton’s book claimed, but it does downplay the relationship between the two social network founders.

Regardless of whose account you believe, it’s likely not going to end here. I imagine that the back-and-forth squabbling over history will continue as soon as Bilton’s book hits the shelves come early November.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald