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Twitter breaks in India, Indonesia and other countries.




As the reports come hour after hour of mass resignations, office closurescrisis meetings and general musky chaos, are ex-Twitter employees warning of impending trouble, and users across the US are bracing for the platform’s imminent demise. Fair enough, considering massive departures has really hit the teams responsible for traffic, content moderation, front-end and back-end engineering, content moderation, 24/7 on-call technical assistance, community management, system libraries, history curation, trust and security policy, and user information. The infrastructure has proven solid enough that the social network probably won̵[ads1]7;t collapse completely—at least not just yet. What can happen instead, like some former tweeps and digital observers have meant, is that continuous bugs and errors will pile up without sufficient workforces present to fix them.

Already, Twitter’s user bases outside the US are facing these problems. “Twitter is very slow in India, Indonesia and many other countries,” Elon Musk tweeted on Tuesday. “This is fact, not ‘claim’. 10 to 15 seconds to update homeline tweets is common. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, especially on Android phones. The only question is how much delay is due to bandwidth/latency /app.” This is not a new problem: Indian desktop users reported major service outages even earlier this month.

Musk may acknowledge the concerns here, but he’s also gotten rid of the people who actually know what to do with it. If you think the job cuts and layoffs in the US are bad – which they are – you should look at how Musk has cleaned house in other nations. Twitter services for the entire African continent were hollowed out just four days after the Ghana office opened. Around 90 percent of Twitter employees in India, which makes up the site’s third-largest market, have also been left out of a job. According to Rest of World, the company laid off virtually all of its marketing and communications teams throughout Southeast and East Asia, while widespread layoffs also hit offices in Mexico and Brazil. These regions claim some of the largest numbers of Twitter users; these countries are where the app plays an oversize role in national discourse, activism, politics and culture. Not coincidentally, they are also the places where tweeters have reported declines in overall UX, errors while logging into the service, and incorrectly limited accounts.

No two Twitter experiences (or feeds) are the same, and some user reports of website errors in different countries on Thursday night were admittedly jokes. But as posters gathered to mourn what has come of the platform — an occasion Musk celebrated as a “all time high in Twitter usage lol”—there appeared to be a higher than usual number of network outages worldwide. Hundreds of such reports came that night alone from key countries such as Singapore, India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan and South Africa, per data scraped by Downdetector. These are of course some of the countries where errors and disinformation abound the most, where censorship and closures occur routinely, and where dedicated knowledge workers are most needed to avert such disasters. They are also countries that really like soccer, which has some fans worried about what might happen online when the World Cup kicks off on Sunday.

Back in July, Twitter experienced its worst global outage in years, with services rendered completely unavailable everywhere for nearly three hours in total. If it took this long to fix the network at a moment when Twitter still had a workforce of 7,500, what will happen when the next blackout occurs and only a few thousand people are at the helm?

That clearly won’t be where Musk is directing his energy. The day after the mass company layoffs, he tweeted about New features: “deboosting” and demonetizing “negative/hate tweets” and reinstating suspended accounts belonging to Kathy Griffin, Jordan Petersen and Babylon Bee (but not Donald Trump or Alex Jones). The New York Times further reported that Musk was “considering closing one of Twitter’s three main US data centers”, which would leave the remaining servers with “potentially less backup data capacity in case something goes wrong”. (Which could easily happen!) This despite the fact that after Musk went on a round of layoffs of his own, there was no one left to look after the servers in Twitter’s New York outpost, causing the room where they were housed to overheat and crash out. Wi-Fi capability. “Fractions are already happening slowly and accumulating,” one employee told the Washington Post.

It therefore makes sense that Australia’s online regulator is working with other government departments in Fiji, Ireland and the UK “to create new laws to combat abuse, harmful content and illegal material on social networks”, the Canberra Times reported this week. (The official account of the French Embassy in Fijifor one, is preparing to leave Twitter altogether.) After all, someone has to keep an eye on the service while Elon Musk continues to mess things up — even if the prospect of such regulation also raises complicated questions about free speech.

For what it’s worth, every time I tried to dig up Musk’s tweet inviting users to browse Twitter for World Cup commentary this weekend, I kept being told that the tweet was now unavailable. So much for that, thereafter.

Future Tense is a partnership between Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.





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