After months of complaints over hateful, distressing “trending topics” such as #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend and #itaintrape, Twitter announced last month that they would begin removing “clearly offensive” trends. The social media site had already prevented topics with obscene language from trending. With this new information, we can’t help but wonder…did Twitter stop “Troy Davis” and other TTs related to his case from trending?
Yesterday, despite all of the buzz on the site about the case, Davis’ name was not a worldwide or national TT, nor did it trend in most large cities (it got up to number #5 in Washington, DC). Yet Casey Anthony’s name was on the national trending list all day. What were people saying about her? They were comparing her case to Davis’. That means if enough people referenced Anthony in relation to the Davis case, there should have been enough people speaking on Davis for HIS name to trend (or #freetroy, #toomuchdoubt or one of the other related trends).
Twitter explained to Mashable how words and phrases trend:
“Our Trends list is designed to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world, in real-time. The list is generated by an algorithm that identifies topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously.
“There’s a number of factors that may come into play when seemingly popular terms don’t make the Trends list. Sometimes topics that are popular don’t break into the Trends list because the current velocity of conversation (volume of Tweets at a given moment) isn’t greater than in previous hours and days. Sometimes topics that are genuinely popular simply aren’t widespread enough to make the list of top Trends. And, on occasion, topics just aren’t as popular as people believe.”
While this all makes sense, the Anthony #TT makes it virtually impossible to believe that Davis’ name was not used enough for it to trend. Now, while we have to be ever mindful of the fact that Twitter is a privlege, not a right…in other words, it is a free service that is provided by a private company that can operate as they see fit…the idea that the site would have quietly filed #troydavis away with offensive content such as #rapesongs is rather disheartening.
I once got into a late night Twitter argument with lame comedian Lisa Lampanelli (long story, don’t ask) after I Tweeted that she wasn’t funny. At the time, I had under 9k followers and she had just under 200k; she basically turned her fans on me. Her name was on the trending topic list as a result. She doesn’t have nearly the followers of a Questlove or Big Boi, both of whom have been Tweeting extensively about the Davis case.
At the moment, “Who is Troy Davis” is trending, along with “Democracy Now” (the site on which most people are watching the Davis coverage) and “Dear Georgia” (a TT with which people are expressing their frustration with the state responsible for the planned execution). Yet “Troy Davis”, #freetroy, #toomuchdoubt and #troydavis are still not on the list. Twitter claimed today that they did not block the topic.