DeSantis/Musk event didn’t break the Internet, but it did break Twitter

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Ashley Belanger
2023-05-25 12:35:26

Enlarge / Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Yesterday, Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis became the first presidential hopeful to announce his campaign on Twitter Spaces, which Elon Musk had touted as a “smart move” for “any candidate” to “get the highest possible audience.”

But instead of making sure that DeSantis’ announcement was delivered to the broadest possible audience, Twitter glitched for nearly 30 minutes, causing more than half of DeSantis’ initial 600,000-strong audience to ditch the audio session, briefly including DeSantis himself, The Washington Post reported. In the end, only 161,000 users heard DeSantis deliver his short speech, NBC News reported, with a total of approximately 300,000 users ultimately attending the audio-only event, which lasted more than an hour.

A screenshot widely shared from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” showed that the number represented fewer viewers than videos of US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got playing a game on Twitch, Buzzfeed got exploding a watermelon, and April the Giraffe got giving birth.

While DeSantis’ campaign claimed that the event was so popular it “broke the Internet,” the reality is that the traffic surge only broke the app. To solve issues like Twitter Spaces crashing, distracting feedback, and audio cutting out or sounding garbled, The Guardian reported, Musk had to set up an entirely new Spaces session. He told users that Twitter was “reallocating some of the server capability to be able to handle the load here. It’s really going crazy.”

Once there was a much smaller audience, Twitter Spaces functioned normally, which The Guardian reported indicated that the issue really was too much user demand for Twitter to handle. However, The Washington Post noted that Twitter Spaces has, in the past, handled much higher user demand, with Musk hosting an event in March where 1.2 million tuned in with seemingly no issues.

Joining Musk in hosting the DeSantis announcement was venture capitalist David Sacks, whom CNN reported attempted to spin the glitches as a sign of Twitter’s success.

“You know you’re breaking new ground when there’s bugs and scaling issues,” Sacks said during the Spaces session, which he said was “melting the servers.”

But an anonymous former Twitter employee told CNN that it was really a sign that Twitter Spaces is still just a “janky” tool that isn’t ready for prime time.

“Spaces was largely a prototype, not a finished product,” the ex-employee told CNN. “It’s a beta test that never ended.”

While Twitter Spaces was glitching, NBC News reported that voices could be heard fretting that DeSantis’ rival Donald Trump would have a field day mocking the event, and that is indeed what happened. Trump is currently “significantly” ahead of DeSantis in Republican primary polls, MSNBC reported. A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, Steven Cheung, told NBC News that the event was a disaster, while Trump posted critically of DeSantis on Truth Social.

“Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that’s just the candidate!” Cheung told NBC News, while Trump mocked DeSantis’ collar for being “too big” and said DeSantis’ campaign would be as big a disaster as the Twitter campaign launch.

Musk responded by joking that the only reason people saw Trump’s comments was because of screenshots shared on Twitter.

Trump wasn’t the only 2024 presidential candidate who took a jab at DeSantis for launching his campaign on a glitchy social media platform. Biden also got in on the fun by tweeting a link to his own campaign fundraising webpage, bragging, “This link works.”

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