Today I was surprised to see that one of Twitter’s Trending Tweets was #RIP Black Folks. At first I was a bit surprised that something as insensitive as this would be one of the trending tweets, but I decided to look into because it caught my attention. As I read the tweets there appeared to be about four prevalent themes, people who were upset that a distasteful tweet made it to the trending list, others stated that Black Folk was a band that broke up, hence the RIP, others stated that if RIP Black Folk then there would be no NBA, NFL, etc…, lastly there were tweets of people stating that the reason it was trending is because everyone kept tweeting to take it down from the trending topics list, which makes sense.
The problem Twitter faces here if they do remove the topic from the trending list, it could be construed as censorship. If Twitter complies with tweets from hundreds of users that are appalled with the fact that the topic made it to the list then they have essentially censured tweeting. The fact of the matter remains, Twitter is not a news organization, it is not a political or social institution, it is merely a platform for a stream of thoughts that are 140 characters or less. Should it be censured?
If they remove this topic from the trending list, what’s to say that they wont do the same for something that may not benefit Twitter or its investors? Or in the greater scheme of things, swing elections, public opinion, etc. If Twitter is a stream of thought used to get a pulse of the population (at least the population that’s plugged in), wont censure disrupt or skew it?
This is not a question about the appropriateness of trending topics, rather a question about Twitter’s role in policing what people say on Twitter.
What do you think? Should Twitter have the right to remove trending topics they think are offensive? How far is too far?
I’ll update this post as the story develops, would love to hear your thoughts.