So what is important to the world right now? #ClimateScam trended on Friday and drew users to a flood of memes about climate change from those who insisted it was a hoax. Earlier this week, “Sodom and Gomorrah” became popular in the United States, fueled by far-right anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theorists. Before long, the term “Satan panic” and the name of Ashli Babbitt, the woman killed in an attempted coup on January 6, 2021, soared and became the center of conspiracy theories about the circumstances of her death.
Pointing out that algorithmic trending lists can amplify objectionable content to large audiences is nothing new. So why does Twitter still have this feature in 2022?
Twitter’s core thesis on Trends hasn’t changed much since Dorsey’s blog post. Twitter spokeswoman Lindsay McCallum said in an email that it’s a feature designed to show people what’s going on around the world and on Twitter at any time. When it works best, Trends is like an online event: “Choco Taco,” a popular post-ice cream treat, prompts others to tweet their thoughts.
Trends are at the heart of the story Twitter wants to tell, says Shireen Mitchell, tech analyst and founder of Stop Online Violence Against Women, a story about how it captures and serves the public conversation. But manipulated trends (even harmless ones) and amplified extremism in an algorithmically generated list of trends undermine the story.
“Twitter has always tried to make ‘pop’ look like a real, trending topic that people care about. But for the most part, it’s gamification,” she said.
In addition to Twitter’s claim that Trends serves an important public function, there’s another reason the feature exists. Here’s the platform’s revenue stream: Twitter started selling promotional space on Trends in 2010.Currently Twitter sells what it claims to be trend takeover point And show ads in search results for trending topics.
For example, on July 28, sponsored trends for Christopher Nolan’s new movie topped Twitter’s U.S. trending list and custom trending “For You” column.
“I don’t think they actually think about the real benefit to the user versus the benefit to their bottom line,” Mitchell said. Twitter declined to comment on its Trends ad program.