Facing an activist shareholder trying to replace their CEO, Twitter employees did the most natural thing that came to them Monday afternoon: They started a Twitter hashtag.
At around 4 p.m. in San Francisco, a handful of employees at the social media company started tweeting #WeBackJack to show their support for CEO Jack Dorsey in light of an ouster attempt from hedge fund Elliott Management. Last week, the activist investment fund announced it had taken a roughly $1 billion position in Twitter — representing about a 4% stake — in an attempt to drive more value out of the company — and drive out Dorsey in favor of a full-time chief executive.
Dorsey, who has been Twitter CEO since 2015, also serves as chief executive of Square, the payments and financial services company that he cofounded. Since rejoining Twitter as CEO more than four years ago, the 43-year-old, who announced in November that he intended to live in Africa for up to six months this year, has split his time between both San Francisco–based companies.
The outpouring of support from his own employees comes after Dorsey has faced criticism not only for his company’s financial performance, but also for Twitter’s enabling of disinformation, hoaxes, and toxicity that critics have argued have harmed online discourse. Elliott, founded by billionaire Paul Singer, has been reportedly pushing for Dorsey’s removal because it believes that the company’s financials have underperformed under the enigmatic Twitter cofounder and that a full-time leader could do a better job.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment. Dorsey did not immediately respond to a request for comment via direct message.
More than 30 employees started tweeting the hashtag within an hour after it was first shared, with some including GIFs from movies like The Incredibles and The Matrix as well as commentary suggesting they’d go to the mat for Dorsey. One suggested that Dorsey should win the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Never, ever underestimate how much people at a company show up for a strong leader,” tweeted Lara Cohen, Twitter’s Global Partnerships lead. “@jack has shown us who we are, and why the platform matters. That’s more than f’ing face filters — that’s actually serving and enabling public conversation. #WeBackJack.”
A source close to Twitter said the #WeBackJack discussions began on the company’s internal Slack before moving to Twitter, where employees have been encouraged in the past to share their feelings about the company. That person said there was no top-down directive for employees to back Dorsey.
One current Twitter employee who declined to be named said that while they were skeptical of Dorsey when he rejoined Twitter as part-time CEO, they credit him for setting the company’s direction and empowering its current executive team. They acknowledged that situations have been “fucked up” previously, but with Twitter coming off a recent all-hands summit, “the company is feeling pretty good about who we are.”
“Jack is the driver of all that,” the person said, adding that they would quit if Dorsey were replaced. “The notion that Wall Street should determine who we work for is ridiculous.”
The #WeBackJack hashtag was filled with personal stories as well as comments from employees who commended Dorsey for taking into account their personal health. On Monday, Twitter encouraged its 4,800 workers around the world to stay home starting tomorrow as fears mount about the worldwide spread of the coronavirus.
“Beginning today, we are strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able,” the company said in a blog post. “Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus for us — and the world around us.”
In the company’s most recent earnings call, Dorsey indicated he wanted the company to move to a more distributed workforce — a move that drew criticism from some politicians in San Francisco, the location of its headquarters.