On Wednesday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced his 2024 bid for the GOP nomination for president in a Twitter livestream that was marred by glitches and technical difficulties.
The first-of-its-kind event, which was hyped up by both DeSantis and Twitter owner Elon Musk, was widely panned by political and media observers.
Musk, along with tech entrepreneur David Sacks, hosted the livestream on Twitter Spaces, a corner of the site where users can host audio-only broadcasts. Musk and Sacks were slated to briefly discuss the presidential race and then introduce DeSantis, but DeSantis didn’t get a chance to speak for nearly the first half hour of the program due to technical difficulties.
Sound frequently cut in and out during the first part of the event. The glitches were so bad that Musk and Sacks were forced to stop and restart the event, reportedly dropping the number of listeners in half, from 500,000 when it initially began to 250,000 when it resumed.
The drop in listeners meant that hundreds of thousands of users who had intended to hear DeSantis announce his run — an action that typically involves great fanfare — missed the live broadcast.
“It was bold. It turned out to be a mistake,” radio host Erick-Woods Erickson said to his followers on Substack. “It is recoverable. But it is a reminder that some things should be under full control of the candidate, particularly the launch day.”
Sacks attempted to play off the glitches and delays by claiming they were a result of the event’s popularity.
“I think you broke the internet there,” Sacks said when the program started for the second time.
“You know you’re breaking new ground when there’s bugs and scaling issues,” he added later on.
But observers of the social media site have noted that these glitches are not an anomaly, and that Twitter outages have been more frequent since Musk’s takeover of the site last year. As owner of Twitter, Musk has loosened restrictions on what content can be shared — prompting a flood of hateful posts from far right users — and fired 75 percent of workers at the company.
Musk appeared to acknowledge the glitches during the program. “That was insane, sorry,” he told users after the restart.
In the lead-up to Wednesday’s Twitter Spaces event, anonymous Twitter employees told The New York Times that they were concerned over whether Twitter could even support the increase in traffic that was expected for DeSantis’s campaign announcement. No planning had been made to account for “site reliability issues” before the event took place, they said.
“The technical problems on Wednesday showed how Twitter is operating far from seamlessly, turning what was supposed to be a crowning event for Mr. Musk into something of an embarrassment,” New York Times technology reporter Ryan Mac wrote.
Even before the broadcast aired, the event was muddled in controversy. Although Musk falsely purports to be politically neutral, he has shifted the site rightward, publicly mocking progressives and propping up far right figures in his tweets. Last year, Musk indicated that he would support DeSantis for president in 2024.
DeSantis is decidedly far right, with critics denouncing his relentless attacks on marginalized populations in Florida as “proto-fascist.”
Under the supposed auspices of “freedom,” DeSantis has attacked the “civil rights of women, immigrants, LGBTQ people, teachers, students, labor unions, and more,” Truthout reporter Mike Ludwig noted.
As Florida governor, DeSantis has signed a dangerous six-week abortion ban into law; denied students their civil rights by signing a law that allows parents and community members to censor books they deem inappropriate (often targeting books with LGBTQ and/or Black characters); and enacted inhumane anti-immigrant policies, even transporting migrants to other states in a cruel political stunt that appears to be illegal.
“DeSantis’s lies, policies and embrace of historical revisionism cannot be separated from either an egregious fascist history or the current attempts by the GOP to erase migrants and Black and Brown people from history in order to prop up a white nationalist agenda,” Henry A. Giroux, the current McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a member of Truthout’s board of directors, noted in an op-ed in December 2022.
“There is little doubt that DeSantis has turned Florida into a laboratory of fascist politics,” Giroux added. “Politicians and scholars alike, including Robert Reich (former secretary of the treasury from the Clinton administration) and the historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, have labeled DeSantis a fascist, and they are right.”
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