Elon Musk’s Event With Ron DeSantis Reveals Twitter’s Weaknesses

Welcoming Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a Twitter audio event on Wednesday to announce his presidential run was supposed to be a moment of triumph for Twitter owner Elon Musk.

Instead, the event kicked off with more than 20 minutes of technical glitches, hot mic moments, and drowned out, half-spoken conversations before the live stream was abruptly cut short. A few minutes later, the live broadcast restarted as hundreds of thousands of listeners tried to tune in. Mr. DeSantis hadn’t said a word at the time.

“That was crazy, sorry,” Mr. Musk said.

Behind the stop-start Twitter Space, an audio-only livestream on the social network, was a company that has undergone major changes in recent months. Since Mr. Musk bought Twitter last year for $44 billion, he has reshaped it by cutting more than 75% of its workforce, changing the platform’s speech rules and reinstating suspended users. Crashes increased, as did bugs that made Twitter less usable.

Wednesday’s technical glitches showed how Twitter operates far from transparent, turning what was meant to be a crowning achievement for Mr Musk into something embarrassing.

Mr. DeSantis’ announcement had been an opportunity for Mr. Musk, an unpredictable executive with interests in many areas, to promote his multiple agendas. These included a political coming out for the billionaire, who flirted with right-wing accounts and politics for years on Twitter but never kissed a presidential candidate like he did the Republican governor. . And it was supposed to be a way for Mr. Musk to advance his business interests by promoting Twitter, which he is trying to overthrow.

Yet as Twitter’s live audio stream wanes, the reaction – including on Twitter itself – has been shock and contempt that what should have been a carefully choreographed announcement of a presidential race stumbled so badly. . The #Desaster hashtag appeared on many posts. Others took photos of the failure, with President Biden’s personal @JoeBiden account tweeting a donation link with the words “This link works”.

David Sacks, a technical manager who hosted the audio event with Mr. DeSantis and who is a confidant of Mr. Musk, tried to play down the technical issues.

“We have so many people here that we are melting the servers, which is a good sign,” he said during the first livestream, which spat.

Mr. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

Inside Twitter, employees had been alarmed by Mr Musk’s move into politics and the social media site’s ability to handle the influx of traffic, three employees said. There was no planning for so-called “site reliability issues” for the event with Mr. DeSantis, two of the people said, and workers were ready to do whatever they could to keep the social network running.

When the audio event began around 6 p.m. EST, more than 600,000 listeners joined, causing Twitter’s mobile apps and website to drop or crash, two employees said. Mr Musk later said his account, which has 140 million followers and which promoted and launched the live stream, had attracted too many listeners and Twitter’s systems had been unable to capture them. manage.

Twitter’s systems recovered, employees said, but the restarted livestream with Mr. DeSantis had a smaller audience, with around 275,000 listeners.

Even before the glitches, the event had drawn criticism, especially since Mr Musk said Twitter was a politically neutral platform. Michael Santoro, professor of management and entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, said the event “undermines” the claim of impartiality.

“As the owner of the company, he uses the core resources, power and reach of the company to express any point of view,” Mr. Santoro said of Mr. Musk.

But others said they weren’t surprised that Mr Musk was trying to shape the social platform in his own image and beliefs.

A self-proclaimed moderate, Mr. Musk has voted for Democratic presidential candidates like Barack Obama and Mr. Biden. But in recent years, he’s taken a right turn, which was fully explained on his Twitter profile. He has published articles critical of what he calls the “woke mind virus” affecting Democratic politics, shared right-wing conspiracy theories and repeatedly praised Mr. DeSantis for nearly a year.

Jason Goldman, former vice president of product at Twitter, likened Mr. Musk’s moves with Twitter to creating an echo chamber where he put his own interests first.

“He’s the moderator, and the content featured and promoted is what he likes the most,” Goldman said.

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

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

The company’s technology operations have become more precarious since November, current and former employees said. Mr. Musk also ended operations at one of Twitter’s three main data centers, reduced teams working on the company’s back-end technology, such as servers and cloud storage, and eliminated leaders overseeing this area.

After Twitter Space rebooted on Wednesday, Mr. DeSantis finally got a chance to speak. He gave his stump speech, then praised Mr. Musk for buying Twitter. He also praised Mr Musk, who often declares his support for free speech, for the commitment and said the Twitter owner would surely make money from his investment in the company.

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


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