Twitter owner Elon Musk’s quest to turn his platform into a media powerhouse failed miserably on Wednesday after a planned talk with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Twitter Spaces to announce his presidential run was overcome by embarrassing technical glitches.
Before the event, Musk hyped up DeSantis’ unusual choice of venue, stating: “Any candidate who announces on this platform will get the highest possible audience. It’s a smart move.” However, the tech billionaire quickly ate his words when the Spaces chat began hours later in a room hosted by Musk with more than 600,000 listeners.
The glitches began as soon as David Sacks, a prominent Republican donor and friend of both Musk and DeSantis who was moderating the event, started to speak. After Sacks introduced Musk and praised DeSantis, the Space was engulfed in loud feedback sounds before cutting off. It then came back and cut off repeatedly.
“We got so many people here that we are kind of melting the servers, which is a good sign,” Sacks said. In the background, Musk could be heard stating that he was working on allocating more server capacity, according to the Guardian.
That apparently didn’t work. Over the next 20 minutes, Sacks and DeSantis both entered and left the Space and appeared to be trying to speak, the Verge reported. Participants then received a message that the Space had ended, despite the fact that DeSantis had not yet had the chance to say anything, specifically that he was running for president.
Sacks had to start another Space with his account, finding a moment to heap praise on Musk even in the midst of disaster. The new Space had significantly fewer listeners than before, but did reach over 100,000.
“I think [Twitter] crashed because when you multiply a half million people in a room by an account with over 100 million followers, which is Elon’s account, I think that creates just a scalability level that was unprecedented,” Sacks said. “But with my meager followership it seems to be working much better.”
Finally, nearly half an hour late, the Space started to focus on the person who was supposed to be the most important of the night: DeSantis. Sacks asked the Florida governor if he had an announcement to make.
“I am running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback,” DeSantis said. “There is no substitute for victory... we must look forward, not backwards.”
Unfortunately, it’s hard to call DeSantis’ announcement a victory. Users on Twitter quickly took to calling the event a “#DeSaster,” which was trending on the platform on Thursday morning. Furthermore, the biggest story of the night wasn’t that DeSantis was running for president, but rather Musk’s embarrassing technical disaster.
“[T]his was a fuck-up, plain and simple, not just in the technical glitches — which were an embarrassment for a person who styles himself a tech god — but as a media event,” tech reporter Kara Swisher tweeted in the aftermath. “What did DeSantis say? Who knows since how he said it — or did not get to say it — sucked up all the oxygen.”
Don’t tell Musk that, though. In response to criticism from outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Politico, the Twitter owner said the event gave the DeSantis announcement “massive attention.”
“Top story on Earth today,” Musk said on Twitter.
He later added that “Twitter new account signups just went ballistic.”
Meanwhile, Twitter’s new incoming CEO, Linda Yaccarino, also hailed the event as a success, which appears to be the only thing you can do in you’re in Musk’s orbit.
“Tonight’s reflection — we just heard a rare and unscripted conversation, on a range of important topics, with a Presidential candidate — all launched on Twitter. That’s historical. Let’s do more,” Yaccarino said. “Freedom of speech is priceless.”
Gizmodo reached out to DeSantis’ presidential campaign for comment on Thursday morning but did not immediately receive a response.