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Ron DeSantis debuts presidential bid in a glitch-ridden Twitter 'disaster'

In this photo illustration, businessman and Twitter owner Elon Musk tweets about a Twitter Spaces event he will be hosting with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on May 24, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson
Getty Images
In this photo illustration, businessman and Twitter owner Elon Musk tweets about a Twitter Spaces event he will be hosting with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on May 24, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.

It was supposed to be a historic moment for Twitter: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would smoothly kick off his presidential candidacy on the social media platform.

An uninterrupted conversation between DeSantis and Twitter CEO Elon Musk would be live-streamed on Twitter Spaces to mark the event.

But instead, the live audio event was beset with technical malfunctions. After some 20 minutes of crashing and echoing and chaos, it abruptly ended.

Many on Twitter had a one-word description for it: "disaster."

The start of broadcast was delayed for a few minutes and then it cut out twice. Tech investor David Sacks, who was supposed to introduce the event, could be heard saying: "The servers are melting."

At another point, as Sacks attempted to speak, an echo reverberated his words back to him. "It just keeps crashing, huh?" an unidentified speaker was heard saying, as Musk and his team scrambled to fix the problem.

A few minutes later, Musk promoted a new Spaces that seemed to be working, but much of the audience did not seem to make the leap. The first Spaces appeared to have more than 500,000 attendees at its peak, while the second seemed to hover around 150,000.

During the discussion, Sacks claimed the audience on the Spaces was one of the platform's largest, but Earnest Wilkins, a former Twitter employee who helped produced Spaces, said: "Lol this isn't in the top 150 spaces by size in the history of the product."

The platform's high-profile malfunctioning was not exactly surprising to those who have been observing the social media site since Musk took it over.

Since acquiring Twitter in October, the company is a shell of its former self.

Its staff has been whittled down to just about 10% of what it was before Musk's acquisition, following mass layoffs and hundreds of others quitting. Outages have become far more common. Overall system bugginess has also become the norm for many users.

So it's perhaps not a stunning turn of events that Spaces buckled just as DeSantis was delivering his big news, despite all of Musk's enthusiasm about the event.

"Musk has cut back on the personnel needed to keep Twitter glitch free. It's fitting that his reckless management style would bite him just as so many are tuning in," said Nora Benavidez with Free Press, an advocacy group for digital rights.

One user on Twitter competitor Bluesky put it this way: "even though u knew it would turn out this way it is still amazing it turned out this way lol"

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dara Kerr
Dara Kerr is a tech reporter for NPR. She examines the choices tech companies make and the influence they wield over our lives and society.
Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.

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