Whoever decided that US presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis should launch his campaign for the White House on Twitter must be regretting it now.
In Elon Musk’s quest to turn Twitter – or X, the future “everything app” – into a media platform to take down the traditional networks, he instead exposed its weaknesses.
It was supposed to be a high point for site. The Republican governor of Florida’s choice of Twitter instead of a traditional campaign launch should have been a major coup, highlighting the platform’s versatility and a cementing its place as an online town square.
Instead, there were long silences and disappearing hosts. At one point, Musk could be heard muttering about the servers straining. DeSantis himself was kicked out of the broadcast at another. Co-host David Sacks spent longer than necessary bigging up the Twitter owner. Rubbing salt in the wound, #DeSaster started trending on Twitter and political opponents used the bumbling launch as capital.
Depending on Twitter Spaces might have been the first mistake. Twitter’s live audio platform has been known to creak under the weight of events with a fraction of the 600,000 or more viewers that tried to log into the DeSantis announcement.
The second may have been Twitter laying off so many experienced staff that there were few people left to point out how monumentally bad this idea was to start with.
There were weird flexes on the site as people tried to paint it as a success. New chief executive, Linda Yaccarino, ignoring the technical glitches, said it was “a rare and unscripted conversation”, describing it as “historical” [sic].
Sacks blamed it on the popularity of Musk’s account and has since talked about how “terrified” legacy media is of Twitter – ironically on the legacy media Fox News.
The launch did, however, achieve something people may have thought impossible: it united Republicans and Democrats in one common purpose – mocking DeSantis.
It also overshadowed any political substance – or lack thereof – in the campaign.
Politically, DeSantis may well shake off the rough start to his campaign. But, when will Twitter shake off the Fail Whale that has persisted since Musk gutted its staff?