Twitter could ‘face outage’ during FIFA World Cup 2022, claims insider

‘First World Cup match on Sunday! Watch on Twitter for best coverage & real-time commentary,’ Musk tweeted earlier.
Loukia Papadopoulos
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Twitter headquarters.

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Twitter has a 50-50 chance of experiencing a major crash during the FIFA World Cup 2022, a recently departed employee, told The Guardian on Saturday.

The former employee has intimate knowledge of the workings of the Twitter Command Centre, the platform’s center for troubleshooting issues that arise during high traffic to the site. “Between the lack of preparations and the lack of staffing, I think it’s going to be a rough World Cup for Twitter,” he said.

He explained that an incident of malfunction or poor service is almost a certainty during the World Cup in Qatar. He also speculated a 90 percent possibility of something going wrong that users would see.

Twitter is “likely to struggle with traffic at kickoff, and may crash,” he said. “If we’re lucky, it will recover with minimal disruption.”

Twitter has suffered from major cuts made by billionaire Elon Musk since he purchased the platform in October.

Around half of the company’s 7,500 workforce were laid off in the first week of Musk's acquisition followed by four in five of the firm’s 5,500 contractors in the second week. This week a further 1,000 or more workers resigned after Musk demanded they opt into future employment.

Sensitive to heavy traffic

This makes the company particularly sensitive to the expected flow of traffic during the World Cup. 

“Traffic gets very spiky during big events, so any big play or controversial call will drive a very sudden surge of traffic – and the infrastructure would have to absorb the impact,” said the former employee. “Under other circumstances there would be plenty of people watching things and making sure any hotspots get dealt with.”

He further added that up to his dismissal, he knew of no plans in place to handle issues likely to arise during the World Cup. “None that I know of. We should have been doing things weeks ago,” he added.

A brouhaha that peaked in the last few weeks

The Guardian further quoted John Ioannidis, a former software engineer at Twitter who was employed by the company during the 2014 World Cup. “The brouhaha with Elon really peaked in the last couple of weeks,” Ioannidis said. “Even with the best set of equipment and hardware, sudden influxes of traffic can cause problems.”

“There are so many ways that things can fail, you can’t predict all of them,” he said. The worries are not far-fetched as the platform did go offline for periods of time during the 2010 World Cup.

Alan Woodward, professor of cybersecurity at the University of Surrey, also expressed the same worries to The Guardian. “At the moment Twitter appears to be trusting things to luck, which in my experience is not a reliable approach,” he said.

Meanwhile, these concerns don’t seem to be affecting Musk who tweeted on Friday: “First World Cup match on Sunday! Watch on Twitter for best coverage & real-time commentary.”

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