A Fond Farewell to Silicon Valley's Best Spokesperson
Motherboard staffers write goodbye letters to Nu Wexler, Twitter's longtime spokesperson.
A few minutes ago, Twitter global public relations spokesperson Nu Wexler announced via tweetstorm(!) that he was leaving the company. To journalists, Wexler has been the public face of the company for the last four years, the man we've gone to when we wanted to let people know they may have been hacked by foreign cyberarmies, exposed to ISIS propaganda, or surreptitiously forced to follow Donald Trump. Motherboard staff has emailed or called him for comment quite literally hundreds of times in the last few years.
In true Silicon Valley form, Wexler did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. If you will indulge us for a few moments on this Friday evening, we'd like to remember some of the better times with Nu. We wish him luck at his next gig.
I have given Nu's email to possibly every person who has ever written for Motherboard. I did this because Nu is one of the few Silicon Valley public relations who actually responds to EVERY email he gets from Motherboard. I like to think that he had long passages of Twitter rules mapped to hotkeys ready to send us because he unfortunately could not comment on individual accounts for security and privacy reasons. Also, I have an email in my inbox from him called "Russian User Notices." I do not remember what this was for.
I have thought about this way more than is reasonable, but I have a bit of a hunch and/or fanfiction about Nu's career path at Twitter. I am quite certain he started off promoting the cool things Twitter does, like fight censorship in Turkey and Iran, and, because he was so good at that, got promoted to have to deal with the less cool things Twitter does, like defend the platform when it's used to recruit terrorists, harass women, and catapult a reality TV show host into the Oval Office. And yet! Nu was the rare Silicon Valley spokesperson who wasn't like asking questions to a brick wall. Occasionally there were gaps in that wall, and Nu would push snippets of actual usable information through them. Thank you, Nu. I only regret that you probably could not comment on your departure for privacy and security reasons. -Jason Koebler
Nu once gave me a little scoop about Twitter giving three Iranian soccer players the "verified" badge that was once so hard to get on the platform. I know this sounds a bit silly, and in a way, it is small news. But that was Twitter's way of giving the middle finger to Iran, a country that's blocked the micro-blogging site since 2009, after pro-democracy activists famously used Twitter to organize protests and demonstrate against the re-election of controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For a while, that was quintessential Twitter, fighting the man, no matter where in the world it was. Maybe it's a coincidence, and maybe it's because I became more annoying over time, but Nu became less responsive and open as Twitter grew bigger and less cool. -Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
I first reached out to Nu for comment on a story about Twitter harassment back in 2014, upon which he responded with copy/pasted passages from the Twitter rules that did not answer any of my actual questions. He has been my go-to official contact for Twitter ever since.
In my interactions with Nu over the years, I could tell that he was genuinely interested in (and knowledgeable about) a lot of the issues affecting Twitter, from National Security Letter gag orders to Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices. Nu joined the company in 2013, back when Twitter was still hot shit and had garnered a reputation for fighting the Man. But within a year it began to struggle with a never-ending outrage cycle around online harassment, which is probably when Nu evolved into a being that is half-man, half-Twitter Rules. Like any good comms person, he tried to gently push reporters towards stories where Twitter was still the good guy—standing up to censorious foreign governments, resisting abusive copyright notices, protecting users from hackers. Really anything but the complete and abject failure of Twitter's harassment policies. Unfortunately for Nu, by 2017, Twitter would be largely known as a "roiling rat-king of Nazis."
Here's to hoping his next job is at a place slightly more resistant to self-sabotage. His emails will be sorely missed. Whoever becomes the New Wexler will be never be quite as good as the Old Wexler. -Sarah Jeong
I know this will surprise many Motherboard readers, but the only interaction I've had with Wexler, according to an exhaustive search of my email records, occurred in August 2016 when I inquired about several WWE GIFs. At the time, #WrestlingTwitter was up in arms over the suspension of two well-liked accounts that regularly posted "live GIFs" of wrestling events as they were happening. "Ah ha!" I said to myself. "A story!" So I asked Wexler, in so many words, if Twitter itself was behind the account suspensions, or if the company was acting on behalf of WWE. Wexler, to his credit, basically told me to take a long walk off a short pier, and kindly pointed me in the direction of Twitter's "copyright policy." Live GIFs are still a thing, if you're wondering (you're not). -Nicholas Deleon
Dear Nu. This may be a more emotional goodbye than needs be because I am currently onto my fifth pint of Guinness, but if anything I'm going to let my lucid St Patrick's Day ramblings carry us over the finish line here.
I remember it well; it was one of our only exchanges, Nu. I had come across some neo-Nazis advertising on Twitter and duly reported it out for Motherboard, but not before asking for Twitter's comment, of course.
"Hi Ben," you said to me. "We don't comment on individual accounts, but it looks like the screenshot in that tweet is either old or photoshopped."
Nu. It was neither old nor photoshopped. -Ben Sullivan
I only knew you digitally, and I think you once unfollowed me on Twitter. But many knew you as the voice behind countless statements attributed to a Twitter spokesperson, just not by name.
You responded to my emails in a timely manner, which I appreciated. I know it's been a wild year over there, but you always found time to acknowledge questions about Twitter harassment, fake accounts, whistleblowers, and diversity, in my case. I'll fondly remember your favorite catchphrase: "We don't comment on individual accounts or speculation, for privacy and security reasons." Yet, even then, you would courteously copy and paste relevant sections from Twitter's guidelines, just in case I hadn't already read them.
When I inquired about a fake Rex Tillerson account, you even asked if I had any suggestions for preventing impersonation online! I did, but you didn't respond. Did you ever read them? I guess it doesn't matter now.
Best of luck in whatever the future holds. I hope we can work together again. - Sarah Emerson
The only record I have of communicating with you actually predates your time at Twitter. Back in 2012, when you were communications director for Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal and I was a tech reporter for Talking Points Memo.
Fittingly, our correspondence actually foreshadowed your work at Twitter in some strange way. I asked you for a statement from the senator responding to reports of employers asking prospective hires for their social media passwords. You gave me one, and then I fucked it up by attributing it to Senator Blumenthal instead of you. You sent me a very polite if assertive email asking me to change it back, reading in part: "Hi Carl. Just checking back—the statement in the story is attributed to Senator Blumenthal. Could you attribute it to me or to a 'Blumenthal staffer' instead? Thanks."
So, sorry again for that missive. Thanks for being so patient with me. Journalism! The first rough draft of history. -Carl Franzen