Balaji Srinivasan—a man who is reportedly Trump’s top pick to lead the FDA—has deleted all but one of his thousands of tweets. Normally, that might just seem like a smart move but with the Tweet-happy, shame-proof Trump administration it raises alarm bells.
Srinivasan’s name hit the short list as a potential Commissioner of Food and Drugs on Thursday when he visited Trump Tower. Sources told Bloomberg that he has “pulled ahead” of another Silicon Valley pick for the position, Jim O’Neill. Aside from their shared history in tech, O’Neill and Srinivasan are also well-known business associates of Trump’s science and technology advisor, Peter Thiel. Neither of the candidates have a significant medical background, breaking with 50 years of history for the agency’s heads.
Srinivasan co-founded the bio-tech firm Counsyl Inc. which specializes in DNA tests and pregnancy screenings to detect Down syndrome and chromosome-related birth defects. The biggest theory that people are floating for the entrepreneurs decision to delete his account is because he hates the FDA and has been vocal about it for years. He hates it in a burn-it-to-the-ground sort of way, not just a let’s-fix-some-problems sort of way.
For libertarian-minded folks like Theil, O’Neill and Srinivasan, the FDA simply functions as a way to stop companies from innovating.
Over time, the internet will surely pull more and more tweets from Srinivasan’s past. You can see many of them on the Wayback Machine, which last logged his tweet count at 11,000. Google has also cached many of them and others can be found at this archive.is page.
Here he is in a typical tweet about the FDA:
“Exit” is a word that Srinivasan likes to say a lot. His particular brand of libertarian ideals is mostly about leaving the billionaires alone to do what they like and everyone should just become a billionaire. He even wrote an essay arguing that Silicon Valley should “build an opt-in society, ultimately outside the U.S., run by technology.”
Here’s a good one:
Ah yes, remember the good ol’ days before the FDA? When a guy would show up in town, sell you a bottle of Magic Mumps Mixer and take off, leaving you to figure out if it works or not? Let’s make America great again.
What’s a great, forward-thinking way of killing the FDA? Just build an app:
There’s also the possibility that Srinivasan doesn’t want any ideas about his role in government carrying any potential conflicts of interest. Counsyl Inc. says that he is no longer involved with the company, that particular conflict may be out of the way. But he is also co-founder of the bitcoin startup 21 Inc. which he still runs. That company is funded by the venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz, which generally has its hands in everything. It doesn’t take a major leap of imagination to believe that his network could extend into potential conflicts that arise from his governmental influence. Andreesen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz is already quite pleased with the potential pick:
But maybe he’ll disclose his financials instead of giving the ethics office a hard time like everyone else on the Trump team. Of course, we can’t know for sure what kind of money he has in bitcoin or how it’s being used.
The fact that Trump’s picks haven’t really given a fuck about conflicts of interest and that many of them vocally want to destroy the agencies they are being assigned to makes Srinivasan’s decision to delete his account even more mysterious.
Another possible reason is that he’s been critical of Trump and doesn’t want his thin-skinned boss to see the retweets. It’s unclear what he may have said about the Donald in the 11,000 tweets but here’s one that isn’t particularly flattering:
I’m sure that would play well in the current red scare coursing through our intelligence communities and media at the moment.
In November, he highlighted the fact that Trump has suddenly changed his tune on Wikileaks and possibly Snowden. He also warned that “encryption is always a better bet than hope.” Speaking of encryption, Srinivasan is a big fan but he questioned whether Trump is in a tweet that was not cached back in February.
And as Trump continues to cozy up to the Silicon Valley leaders who fear his authoritarian ways, he might not like this much:
So, why did Srinivasan delete all his tweets? There are clearly many reasons to do so. But with an administration as unreasonable as Trump’s it’s tough to pin down exactly which one is the biggest culprit. Maybe it’s best to just take his only remaining live tweet at face value:
He’s made his views clear through argumentation on Twitter, now it’s time to put them into practice.