In a recent article on the Buffer Twitter Tips blog, Leo Widrich wrote a thoughtful post about whether the #occupywallstreet hashtag was being censored on Twitter. He outlined these 6 complaints:
► Trends Are NOT Always The Most Popular Things Being Tweeted About.
► Twitter Sometimes Removes Still-Popular Topics From Trending.
► Political Tweets Sometimes Suspiciously Stop Trending.
► Twitter BLOCKS Some Tweets From Counting Towards Trending Topics.
► Twitter Has A "Secret Formula" For Selecting Trending Topics.
► Twitter Does Censor "Obscene" Topics-And Plans More Censoring.
I'll let you go ahead and read Leo's article in full for detailed explanations of each complaint, but in broader terms...
What exactly makes a trending topic?
According to Twitter: Twitter Trends are automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously. The Trends list is designed to help people discover the 'most breaking' breaking news from across the world, in real-time. The Trends list captures the hottest emerging topics, not just what's most popular.
Put another way, Twitter favors novelty over popularity.
What makes a trend a Trend? Twitter users now send more than 95 million Tweets a day, on just about every topic imaginable. We track the volume of terms mentioned on Twitter on an ongoing basis. Topics break into the Trends list when the volume of Tweets about that topic at a given moment dramatically increases. Sometimes a topic doesn't break into the Trends list because its popularity isn't as widespread as people believe. And, sometimes, popular terms don't make the Trends list because the velocity of conversation isn't increasing quickly enough, relative to the baseline level of conversation happening on an average day; this is what happened with #wikileaks this week.
Very Little Is Known about the Algorithm
There's still not a lot published on the algorithm Twitter uses exactly, so much like SEO, a lot of it will be trial and error, and, like Google, Twitter has the final say. One little tweak could change months of work figuring it out.
It's Twitter's Prerogative
Twitter is not a democracy, it's a private business. We may not always agree with Twitter, but they do have the right to pull something off their site they may deem offensive. The flip side to that is that as users, if we find they are censoring any information, we have the right to stop relying on them as a valid source of information and world trends. It goes both ways.
What About #Occupywallstreet?
It's tough to say. When the hashtag was trending all over the world, it simply wasn't trending in the US. This raised suspicions. But read the Twitter blog post (also shown above), written after people made the same speculation about the #wikileaks tag, which explains that Twitter's trending topics are based on what's breaking out rather than what's popular. "Twitter Trends are automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously," it explains.
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/otromundoesposible/
Articles Mentioned in this post: http://blog.bufferapp.com/five-twitter-secrets-about-censored-trending-topics http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/01/1021949/-Is-Twitter-blocking-Occupy-Wall-Street-from-trending-in-the-USA http://blog.twitter.com/2010/12/to-trend-or-not-to-trend.html
Who Wrote This Post?
I'm the CEO at MarketMeSuite, the social media marketing dashboard. And big news... we're now free! Please check it out and be sure to let me know what you think.