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Elon Musk's Vision for a Digital Town Square Stumbles During DeSantis' Debut

Elon Musk's Vision for a Digital Town Square Stumbles During DeSantis' Debut

Elon Musk's Vision for a Digital Town Square Stumbles During DeSantis' Debut

Elon Musk wants to convert Twitter into a "digital town square," but his much-publicized Twitter Spaces launch event, which featured Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis launching his presidential bid, was plagued by technical difficulties and a near half-hour delay Tuesday.

The problems, according to the billionaire owner of Twitter, were brought on by "straining" servers brought on by the large number of individuals trying to listen to the audio-only event. Even at its peak, the number of listeners mentioned was roughly 420,000, significantly short of the millions of spectators who watch broadcast presidential announcements.

"There are so many people," anchor David Sacks stated amid the chaos. "It's a good sign that there are so many people here because the servers are melting,"

Following the event's completion without additional disruptions, Musk, DeSantis, and Sacks characterized it as a success, with Sacks saying, "It's not how you start, it's how you finish — and we finished really strong."

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Musk had earlier declared the event to be a Twitter first, claiming it would be "the first time something like this is happening on social media." The webcast was supposed to begin at 6 p.m. ET, but it was delayed by about 30 minutes due to people being thrown off, experiencing microphone feedback, and other technical issues. The audience stayed below 500,000.

The delayed announcement provided fodder for DeSantis' critics.

“Glitchy. Problems with technology. Uncomfortable pauses. The launch was a catastrophic failure. And that's just for starters!" According to Steven Cheung, a spokeswoman for former President and current presidential contender Donald Trump.

New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, "We had more people join when I played Among Us," referring to the famous video game.

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Since Musk took control, Twitter has seen a slew of technological troubles, and the company has dismissed or laid off about 80% of its employees, including engineers entrusted with keeping the service working. Musk voiced optimism about Twitter's future and stated he is "going to start adding people to the company" a day before the DeSantis event, speaking at The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Summit in London.

Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter last November. Since then, he has altered the platform's authentication process, loosened content moderation guidelines to fit his beliefs as a "free speech absolutist," disseminated false material, and interacted with far-right groups, all while attempting to entice jittery advertisers back to the platform in order to turn it profitable. His great aim, he has stated repeatedly, is to someday transform Twitter into an "everything app" for everyone — a digital town square where people can hear directly from world leaders and politicians without the need for traditional media intermediaries.

However, he appears to be primarily wooing conservatives and Republicans lately, referring to Democrats and liberals as infected with the "woke mind virus" and restoring extremist accounts that were previously banned by Twitter's prior leadership.

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The campaign's inaugural event on Wednesday with DeSantis continued the trend, although it is still unclear whether the platform can attract mainstream politicians continues to exhibit signs of instability. On Twitter, for example, the term "DeSaster" was trending Wednesday evening as people criticized the failed campaign launch.

In the realm of conventional media and politics, a glitchy half-hour delay and an audience of hundreds of thousands rather than millions may appear to be failures. However, in Silicon Valley, failure is frequently framed as a desirable, even necessary step in developing new products and enhancing old ones. Twitter Spaces, which Twitter started in 2020 to compete with the then-popular audio chat site Clubhouse, is normally rarely utilized for large crowds, therefore it was not surprising that the event was plagued by technical issues.

Jo-Ellen Pozner, a management professor at Santa Clara University, stated, "It's much worse for DeSantis than it is for Musk," noting that Musk's SpaceX merely launched a rocket from Texas a month ago that exploded minutes later. In a tweet, Musk praised the explosion, calling it "a terrific test launch of Starship! I gained a lot of knowledge for the next test launch.

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DeSantis faces a challenging dilemma since he wants to seem competent and deflect criticism at the same time. Musk has an easier exit by just claiming, "This was the first time we tried it, it didn't work out perfectly, but next time we'll do much better," which is the traditional Silicon Valley approach of failing quickly and learning more.

Pozner stated that it is an "open question" of how Twitter will be regarded as a large digital platform in the future.

"I think it will depend on, you know, how he and top management react to this and how they spin it," she continued.

Following DeSantis' departure, Musk and Sacks offered an open invitation to any other presidential contender who want to participate in a Twitter Spaces event. Whether or if they receive any takers might indicate Twitter's future as a "public square."

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