Some protesters on Wall Street are chagrined to see that the protest, following an explosion of media coverage, still isn’t trending on Twitter. On Wednesday, “Foley Square”–the meeting place for the megamarch planned with students and labor unions–made it into the top ten trends in New York. “Truly, @twitter. Foley Square is trending but #occupywallstreet never has? #occupytwitter,” one user wrote.
But even “Foley Square” was quickly supplanted by terms related to the death of Steve Jobs. As one blogger representative of the Twitter censorchip theory wrote, “TrendsMap Proves Scary Twitter Censorship Of #OccupyWallStreet From Trending Topics.” And as Young Manhattanite Andrew Krucoff points out, JP Morgan Chase is an investor in Twitter.
Twitter faced similar accusations back in February over Wikileaks, as some users wondered if tweets related to the controversial hacktivist group were being censored. The precise algorithm for determining trends is private, but the basic thrust is that it’s not about volume–or else Justin Bieber, who dominates about three percent of tweets at any given time, would be constantly trending. “The bottom line is that trends on Twitter are NOT the most popular terms,” said Sean Garrett, head of communications at Twitter in an email. “They are the most ‘breaking’ and reward discussions that are new to Twitter. We are not blocking terms related to #occupywallstreet in any way, shape or form.”
And while it may look to a user like no one is talking about anything else, that’s a fallacy of self-selection due to the fact that users tend to follow other people who are similar to them. “With more than 100 million active users on Twitter and more than 230 million tweets a day, everyone’s timeline is vastly different,” Mr. Garrett wrote.
One hypothesis is that the protest is using too many different hashtags–#occupywallstreet, #occupywallst and #ows. “We used to correlate terms for search benefit, but we don’t anymore,” Mr. Garrett said. “Regardless, we do not associate different (but possibly related) terms in the calculation of trends. This means that #ows or a new related term could ‘break’ on its own and be a trending topic if its usage hit a required peak.”