As Silicon Valley and its biggest social platforms reckon with their role in the 2016 election, Twitter board member Debra Lee didn't mince words about the social network's impact.
"He's apparently a master at using it," she said of Donald Trump's Twitter prowess during a Breakfast at BuzzFeed event Tuesday morning. "And it really did seem to have helped him win the election."
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lee, who joined Twitter’s board last May, said of Trump’s mastery of the platform. “He was able to use Twitter and to use social media to get around conventional media and not deal with having to buy time on media or deal with newspapers or whoever he didn’t like."
Lee also wondered if the abandon with which Trump seems to tweet will inspire his handlers to rein him in come January. "Are they going to take his Twitter away?" she said. "Just the things he says and his feeling that he can go straight to the audience and not deal with thought leaders or opinion makers is really concerning."
Lee also addressed Twitter's struggle to curb its rampant harassment problem, saying the company is trying to grapple with its founders' deep commitment to open expression. "There's a balance between free speech and controlling hate speech," Lee said. "The company is working very hard to find the right balance and I think they'll come out on the right side." Lee also suggested that the new abuse tools (a new expanded mute feature and internal training protocols) rolled out by Twitter earlier this month highlight how important harassment is to the company and its CEO, Jack Dorsey.
On the subject of Dorsey, Lee defended his job performance in his first year since returning to Twitter (since he became CEO in October 2015, Twitter's stock price declined and largely remained flat around $20 a share) and expressed no concern about Dorsey's ability to run two companies at once. Dorsey is also the CEO of Square, a payments company.
"I'm a big supporter of Jack Dorsey," Lee said. "And I think the board — before I came on — made the decision to allow Jack to do be CEO of Twitter and Square. And I think the board is comfortable that he's doing a great job."
A previous version of this post incorrectly reported Lee's first name.