Twitter’s Top Lawyer and Free Speech Advocate Alex Macgillivray Resigns

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By Rachel Ranosa | September 2, 2013 4:10 PM EST

Alex Macgillivray gave prominence to Twitter's reputation as the 'free speech wing of the free speech party' in the social media landscape. [CREDIT: Joi via Creative Commons]

Twitter’s top legal executive and staunch defender of free speech on the Internet resigned from his post on Friday. Alex Macgillivray’s departure has led industry analysts to ask how the reshuffling of Twitter’s legal team will affect the microblogging site’s stance on data privacy.

Macgillivray, known to colleagues as A-mac, announced the decision on his blog. He will stay on as an advisor for the legal, trust & safety, corporate development and public policy teams, but did not specify upcoming plans with other companies. He joined Twitter in 2009 after working for Google.

The Harvard-trained lawyer gave prominence to Twitter’s reputation as the ‘free speech wing of the free speech party’ in the social media landscape.

Macgillivray has earned the respect of civil rights advocates for battling a 2011 court order to release the names of Wikileaks supporters, and another in 2012 seeking to pry open the private messages of Occupy protesters.

His legal team also rejected attempts by the Indian government to take down Tweets that the state deemed ‘inflammatory.’ In the UK, Macgillivray also faced scrutiny before the MPs over the role Twitter played during the London riots.

Vijaya Gadde, who has known Macgillivray for 14 years, replaces him as General Counsel. Prior to this appointment, Gadde managed Twitter’s corporate and international legal affairs.

The succession is only one aspect of what many Silicon Valley experts see as a reorganisation of the legal team while the company prepares for an initial public offering next year. But analysts also point to Macgillivray’s exit simply as a way to pull back from the legal work that comes with Twitter’s flotation.

An even bigger question in the wake of the supposed reshuffle is how Twitter will continue to fend off government attempts to access private information from social media sites.

Gadde, for her part, vowed to ‘continue to defend [Twitter] users around the world.’

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