Elon Musk’s incident with Ron DeSantis exposes Twitter’s weaknesses

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement of his presidential bid at a Twitter audio event on Wednesday was seen as a triumphant moment for Twitter owner Elon Musk.

Instead, the event began with more than 20 minutes of technical glitches, hot mic moments and muffled and half-spoken conversations before the livestream suddenly cut out. Minutes later, the livestream resumed as hundreds of thousands of viewers tried to tune in. Mr. DeSantis didn’t say a word at the time.

“That was crazy, I’m sorry,” Mr. Musk said.

Behind stop-start Twitter Space, the audio-only livestream on the social network is a company that has undergone major changes in recent months. Mr. Since Musk bought Twitter last year for $44 billion, he has reshaped it by cutting more than 75 percent of its workforce, changing the platform’s speech rules and rehiring suspended users. Outages are on the rise, as are bugs that make Twitter less usable.

Wednesday’s technical problems showed how unhindered Twitter can be, Mr. It turned what was supposed to be a crowning event for Musk into an embarrassment.

Mr. DeSantis’ announcement comes as Mr., an unpredictable executive with interests in many fields. It was an opportunity for Musk to promote many of his agendas. That includes the political coming out of the billionaire, who has dabbled with right-wing Twitter accounts and politics for years but never embraced a presidential candidate like the Republican governor. Mr. This is supposed to be a way for Musk to advance his business interests by highlighting Twitter, which he is trying to turn around.

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As the Twitter audio livestream fumbled, the reaction — including on Twitter — was one of shock and derision that a carefully choreographed announcement of a presidential election had fumbled so badly. The hashtag #Desaster appeared in several posts. Others took potshots at the failure, with President Biden’s personal @JoeBiden account tweeting a donation link with the words “This link works.”

David Sachs, Mr. A technical executive who managed the audio event with DeSantis and Mr. Musk’s confidante tried to downplay the technical difficulties.

“We’ve got so many people here, we’re melting the servers, which is a good sign,” he said during the first livestream, which went viral.

For comment, Mr. Musk did not respond.

On Twitter, Mr. Three employees said employees were nervous about whether the social media site could handle the influx of traffic as Musk turned to politics. Mr. The event with DeSantis had no planned “site reliability issues,” the two people said, and workers were prepared to do whatever they could to keep the social network running.

When the audio event began at 6 p.m. ET, more than 600,000 listeners tuned in, causing Twitter’s mobile app and website to crash or crash, two employees said. His account, which has 140 million followers, promoted and launched the livestream, which brought in so many listeners that Twitter’s systems couldn’t handle them, Mr. Musk later said.

Employees said Twitter’s systems had recovered, but Mr. The relaunched livestream with DeSantis had a lower audience, with about 275,000 viewers.

Even before the flaws, the event drew criticism, particularly from Mr. Because Musk said Twitter is a politically neutral platform. Michael Santoro, a professor of management and entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, said the phenomenon “undermines” the claim of impartiality.

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“As the owner of the company, he uses the company’s key resources and power and exposure to express any opinion,” Mr. Santoro Mr. said about Musk.

But others Mr. They said it’s no surprise that Musk is trying to shape the social platform in his own image and beliefs.

Self-proclaimed moderate Mr. Musk, Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mr. Voted for Biden. But in recent years he has turned to the right, which is perfectly laid out in his Twitter profile. He has posted critiques of the “awakened mind virus” affecting Democratic politics, shared right-wing conspiracy theories and for nearly a year Mr. He has repeatedly praised DeSantis.

Jason Goldman, former vice president of product at Twitter, said Mr. Musk’s moves have been compared to Twitter, creating an echo chamber that puts his own interests front and center.

“He is the moderator, and the content that is exposed and promoted is very pleasing to him,” said Mr. Goldman said.

In recent months, fears about Twitter’s credibility have surfaced repeatedly. Mr. After Musk began laying off thousands of his employees last year, many users were so upset by the cuts that #RIPTwitter and #GoodbyeTwitter started trending. The company called off any shutdowns and continued to operate, but outages increased.

In February alone, Twitter has experienced at least four widespread outages, compared with nine in 2022, according to NetBlocks, an organization that tracks Internet blocks.

Current and former employees say the company’s technology operations have become more dangerous since November. Mr. Musk ended operations at one of Twitter’s three main data centers, cut teams working on the company’s back-end technology, such as servers and cloud storage, and fired leaders overseeing that area.

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After the Twitter space was reactivated on Wednesday, Mr. DeSantis finally got a chance to speak. He gave his stump speech and then called Mr. He praised Musk. Often proclaiming his support for free speech, Mr. He also praised Musk for that commitment, saying the Twitter owner would make money on his investment in the company.

Mr. Musk is “a good businessman,” Mr. DeSantis said. Twitter Spaces, he later said, “is a great platform.”

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