This past Tuesday, Twitter unveiled an update that they’re working on. Under the update, they will be adding more context to the topics that are trending on its website or app. This update is being bought forward as an effort to clean up a feature that has often been used to amplify hate and disinformation.
Why Are These Changes Being Made?
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These changes are not only being made by Twitter but other social media companies as well. They are doing this for multiple reasons. The top one and the most common one being, the companies struggle to respond to misinformation regarding the US Presidential elections. However, it stops short of a solution. That solution some Twitter employees and external activists have proposed. They have proposed to eradicate trending topics section altogether. We REALLY hope that doesn’t happen.
Why Are Trending Topics Important?
Twitter offers ‘trending topics’ as an easy way for new twitter users to identify which topics are more popular. The trends serve as on-ramp for many users whore just learning how to use twitter and learning how to get news from it. It also helps new users navigate topics. The trending topics are curated by Twitter for each person. It is curated according to personal interests or geographic location of an individual.
However, these days the system has been bugged by bots and internet trolls. These people spread false, hateful or misleading information, which later on makes it way to the trending topics.
Some Instances Where Trends Have Proven Not To Be Worth The Liability
These episodes have led some Twitter employees to believe that the trends feature is not worth the liabilities. Over the past two years, current and former employees have argued that Twitter would never adequately deal with disinformation. Not until it eradicated its trending list. So What happened that Twitter is debating on this decision, and why has it become more prominent in the past two years?
In February 2020, Russian trolls fueled an American-made conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory stated that the former members of Hillary Clinton’s staff were rigging the Iowa caucuses. This helped push the baseless theory to the top of Twitter’s trending list.
The next thing that happened was in the month of July. In July white nationalists pushed the anti-Semitic hashtag. This happened until #JewishPrivilege became a trend. QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy group, made Wayfair, the furniture company, trend on Twitter with false claims that the company engaged in child trafficking.
Trending twitter has become riskier. Especially in the wake of killings in Kenosha, Wis., and Portland, Ore., in recent weeks. Trending Topics calls have become more urgent than ever before.
What Is The World Doing Regarding Trending Topics?
Some of the avid observers of Twitter have been trying to have the #UntrendOctober trend, which asks Twitter to turn off its trending service through the election season. “We need to make trends better, and we will,” said Frank Oppong, a Twitter product manager.
Twitter will now feature explanatory tweets and descriptions that show why an item is trending. Previously, Trending Topics included a topic title or hashtag, accompanied by a steady stream of tweets about the subject, often leading users down a rabbit hole to uncover why it had become popular.