Moments after billionaire Elon Musk "freed" the bird, several Twitter executives, including chief executive officer Parag Agrawal, legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde, and chief financial officer Ned Segal, were let go. The terminations came as no surprise as Musk had previously accused them of misleading him and Twitter investors over the real figures on bots and fake accounts on the micro-blogging platform.
The trio, despite their tiff with Musk, are walking out with a hefty payout – Gadde's receiving the highest at Rs 610 crore, followed by Segal at Rs 544 crore and Agarwal at Rs 536 crore, according to The Free Press Journal. Many right-wing sections of the Twitterati are, meanwhile, elated that Gadde has been shown the door.
Indian-American Gadde had been at the receiving end of a barrage of online abuse from upper-caste Indians as well as white Americans over the years, notably, on two occasions – over a 'Smash Brahmanical Patriarchy' photo from 2018, for which she later apologised, and for her efforts towards permanently suspending Donald Trump's Twitter account.
In April 2022, when the Twitter acquisition was set in motion, Musk, too, attacked Gadde for her "left-wing bias" and for blocking certain personalities on the platform.
So, who is Vijaya Gadde? What is her connection with India? And what are the controversies she was mired in during her considerably long Twitter stint?
The India Connection
Gadde was born to a Telugu family in Hyderabad, India, in 1974. She, however, hadn't met her father until the age of three, when she moved to Texas, United States. In an interview with Fortune in 2014, Gadde recalled that her father was a poor graduate student in America back then and couldn't support his family.
Gadde grew up in a small town in Texas, where there were only a handful of Indians; racism was rampant and the Ku Klux Klan had a significant local presence. "You don't realize it (KKK's presence) when you're a child," she told Fortune, adding that her father needed their permission to sell insurance. Gadde later realised that this wasn't right and decided to become a lawyer to fight racism.
She completed her bachelor's degree in science in industrial and labour relations from Cornell University in New York and went to New York University to study law. Gadde also worked as a senior director in the legal department of Juniper Networks.
In 2011, she joined Twitter, and her key responsibilities included dealing with tweets that involved fake news and harassment.
Gadde is married to Ramsey Homsany, a lawyer and tech executive, and they have two children. The couple generally keeps their private life away from public eye.
A glance through her tweets is all it takes to know that she strongly identifies as a South Asian woman, who stays true to her Telugu-Hindu roots by celebrating festivals like Vinayaka Chaturthi and Deepavali. In a tweet, she also shared fond memories of her summer vacations in India as a child, when she would complain that she could only take one suitcase of books from the library.
'Brahmanical Patriarchy' & Musk Memes
In 2018, then Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Gadde held a closed-door meeting with a select group of Indian women journalists and activists, during which the company agreed to look into whether it must include caste as a separate reporting category under its hateful conduct policy, as per a mail sent to the participants of the meeting.
Later, Dorsey and Gadde were photographed with the activists, and Dorsey was holding a poster that read 'Smash Brahminical Patriarchy'. Upper-caste Hindus and the Hindu right-wing were quick to call out Twitter for "insulting Brahmins," after which Gadde was issued an apology stating that Twitter was committed to staying "apolitical."
However, the women who were at the meeting expressed their disappointment over Gadde's public stance after the meeting. They said, "It comes as a disappointment to all of us dealing with the abuse, harassment and legal threats that we are facing now, that Vijaya Gadde has, in a Twitter apology, chosen to claim that the photo was a 'private photo,' has apologised to handles alleging that we were instigating hate, and – in sharp contrast to her emotional, apologetic response at that private meeting – publicly distanced herself from Dalit and gender concerns."
During the meeting, a Dalit rights activist also highlighted the daily battle of fighting casteist slurs on Twitter, pointing out the gaps in the social media platform's algorithm.
According to reports, Gadde had also played an instrumental role in suspending the Twitter account of Donald Trump in 2020. However, during the Twitter acquisition, Musk raked up the row yet again by calling himself a "free speech absolutist" and terming Twitter's Trump ban "a mistake."
He even posted a meme featuring Gadde about Twitter's "left-wing bias" during a discussion on a podcast show, The Joe Rogan Experience, with American YouTuber Tim Pool and Dorsey.
Following this, Gadde ended up on the receiving end of racist abuse. Expletives were used with respect to her Indian origin, including terms like "curry." Some Twitter users blamed her for destroying countless accounts for "speaking the truth," and others wanted her out of the company.
(With inputs from The Free Press Journal, Fortune Magazine.)