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Twitter ‘melts’ as it becomes first social app to launch a presidential bid

Elon Musk’s plan to make Twitter the first social media platform to host the launch of a U.S. presidential bid didn’t get off to the best start.

The idea was to launch a Twitter Spaces session with Republican hopeful Ron DeSantis at a scheduled time on Wednesday evening, but when the event was supposed to start, the online audience waiting patiently in the audio-only Space was met with a sudden screeching sound.

No, it wasn’t DeSantis’s opening monologue, but instead a problem with the connection of the session’s moderator, David Sacks, a venture capitalist and former PayPal executive.

As hundreds of thousands of listeners no doubt recoiled in discomfort at the noisy feedback, the line suddenly went dead. DeSantis and Musk popped up in the Space, but then, as Sacks presumably tried to reconnect, the pair disappeared.

“Servers are straining somewhat,” Musk said at one point.

About half an hour after the scheduled start time, and using a newly created Space, the technical issues seemed to dissipate, and Sacks was soon rejoined by DeSantis and Musk.

“All right, here we go,” Sacks said, and then was heard typing something, perhaps along the lines of: “Hey Elon, are you sure this was a good idea?”

After several seconds of silence, Sacks said of the earlier technical failure: “I think we melted the internet there.”

“Sorry, that was insane,” Musk responded, adding: “We’re doing this from David Sacks’s account because it looks like doing it from mine broke the Twitter system.”

After checking that DeSantis was really there, Sacks said the first Spaces session — the one that went wrong — had half a million listeners and was growing by 50,000 a minute.

“Congrats on breaking the internet,” Sacks told DeSantis, who was still waiting to announce his candidacy.

As Sacks almost got the ball rolling, Musk butted in: “You try some new things, you’re going to … it’s adventurous. I think the value here is really high for people to hear directly from presidential candidates, and get a sense for how a candidate really is, where it’s not just canned speeches and teleprompters.”

Just over four-and-a-half minutes in, DeSantis finally got started, speaking with around 890,000 listeners for the next hour or so.

@GovRonDeSantis announced he’s running for president on Twitter. This was by far the biggest room ever held on social media. Twitter performed great after some initial scaling challenges. Thanks Twitter Team for adapting so quickly to make history!

— David Sacks (@DavidSacks) May 24, 2023

There was always a risk that such a highly anticipated Spaces event might crash the system, especially as Musk has been busily laying off staff who might have been able to better prepare the platform for the sudden pressure on its servers.

Musk said at an event on Tuesday that he wasn’t endorsing any particular candidate, and would like to run similar discussion events with Democrats, too.

It’s all part of efforts to raise engagement on Twitter after a rough few months since Musk acquired the platform for $44 billion in October.

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Trevor Mogg
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