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Dantley Davis—Twitter’s ambitious, divisive design chief—is out

New Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal’s reorg includes the departure of the company’s first chief design officer, who aimed to confront the social network’s ills.

Dantley Davis—Twitter’s ambitious, divisive design chief—is out
[Source photos: Twitter; Piyanat Nethaisong/iStock]

Twitter’s new CEO Parag Agrawal didn’t waste any time making his mark on the company. Just four days after Jack Dorsey announced his surprise departure over Twitter, his successor announced a reorganization that will have chief design officer Dantley Davis and head of engineering Michael Montano leaving by the end of the month. 

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The reorganization is consolidating Twitter into three new divisions—consumer, revenue, and core tech—which will be led by Kayvon Beykpour, Bruce Falck, and Nick Caldwell. According to a staff memo obtained by the Washington Post, the changes are an effort to promote “clear decision-making, increased accountability, and faster execution,” as Twitter pursues its goals. 

Davis, who joined Twitter in 2019, was the first person to hold the title of chief design officer at the company, as well as the first Black executive to report to the CEO since Twitter went public. His tenure, as Fast Company senior writer Mark Wilson reported in a September feature, was marked by ambition and employee strife. Davis was hired away from Facebook to help shake up Twitter’s corporate culture and tackle some of the platform’s most deep-seated issues, including its spreading of hate speech, misinformation, and online abuse. (Davis says he told Dorsey at their first meeting that his interest in the job came down to whether or not the CEO believed that groups that condone hate and extremism belonged on the platform.) 

Davis moved to address these issues: He pushed to get misinformation labels live. His group helped to deactivate algorithms that prioritized white faces when auto-cropping photos. And he set up a team to tackle problems like targeted harassment. At the same time, he was on the receiving end of racist attacks and death threats—sent via his own platform—which led Twitter to post security around his house. 

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Davis also overhauled Twitter’s design group, making it more responsible for product development. But a New York Times report in August detailed how his efforts to increase accountability among his team, and his blunt manner, led to some members reporting to HR feeling “psychologically unsafe.” 

It’s unclear if design will once again hold a C-Suite role at Twitter, as it did under Davis.

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