2:00pm September 22, 2011

Did Twitter Block the #TroyDavis and #TooMuchDoubt Hashtags?

troy davis twitter trending questions

With Troy Davis’ life hanging in the balance Wednesday night, people around the world took to social media, and Facebook and Twitter timelines were flooded with pleas to judges and prosecutors to spare his life.

In the days leading up to the execution, Twitter’s “trending topics,” a daily list of the most talked about items, noticeably were missing Troy Davis’ name.  The hashtag, #toomuchdoubt, used to describe the prosecution’s case, was also absent from the list.

As of this morning, a story that had attracted worldwide media attention couldn’t even crack the list of trending topics in Atlanta.  Instead, #youknowyoughetto was trending #1 worldwide for the better part of the day.

Did Twitter block Troy Davis and #toomuchdoubt from trending?

After the slight was recognized by many, popular rapper and Atlanta resident Big Boi of Outkast tweeted, “We don’t need a trending topic, we need boots on the ground, meet me in Jackson Georgia 40 miles outside Atlanta !!! #TroyDavis”.  As the day went on, “Who is Troy Davis” started ascending up the worldwide trending topic list, a sign that people were interested in exactly what was going on and searching for answers due to their timelines being filled with pro-Davis tweets.

Later in the day, popular Twitter personality @jose303 posited this question to Twitter CEO @twittercomms about the omission.  Their response: “Twitter isn’t blocking #TroyDavis or any related trends from trending topics.”

The CEO’s account went on to provide a link to a previous explanation for why certain topics don’t trend due to their algorithm.  “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.”  Yea, right.

The Troy Davis saga captured the hearts and minds of everyone in America, except Fox News, which ran an interview with GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry while CNN and MSNBC stayed with their Davis coverage up until the minute he was pronounced dead (11:08 p.m. EST).  It is beyond impossible to believe that the number of people talking about Davis was not as widespread as we believed.  The case also has people talking about their beliefs in the death penalty and the justice system, which we should all be thinking about right about now.

After Davis was executed via lethal injection, “RIP TROY DAVIS” shot to the top of the worldwide trending topics.  It’s strange that these topics would trend AFTER the stay was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court but not before.

In any event, rest in peace Troy Davis and Mark MacPhail.  May your families be in the prayers of everyone around the world.  And you don’t need a trending topic for that.

About the Author

Malik Shareef
Malik Shareef, Esq. is a senior sports writer with Politic365. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Washington and Lee School of Law, he now practices law in the Washington, DC area and is a certified contract advisor for the NFL. Malik's experience as a sports agent and attorney give him a unique perspective on law-related issues in sports and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @malikshareef.



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  1. tom

    you clearly don't understand how trending topics work.

  2. [...] Benedict XVI. Much of the outrage is that there was simply too much doubt (as the Twitter hashtag #toomuchdoubt suggested) about Davis’ guilt. There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime for [...]

  3. rowdy

    I'm not entirely clear how their algorithm works, but if you check something like Trendistic, etc. you can see the percentage of tweets that use a certain tag. Most trending topics hit 0.5%. On Thursday, #Troydavis hit a whopping 4%.

  4. [...] of the outrage is that there was simply too much doubt (as the Twitter hashtag #toomuchdoubt suggested) about Davis’ guilt. There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime for [...]

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