There are claims being bandied about this afternoon about Twitter and #OccupyWallStreet, with some people suggesting that the term has been banned from the trending lists. This type of claim comes up any time a movement fails to get into the top 10 trending terms. It’s often (rightly) dismissed as paranoia. But could it be true?
Twitter’s trending topics are not based purely on popularity. Novelty also factors in, although the exact formula is not known. This means, for example, that over time a popular topic such as ‘Justin Bieber’ fades. That’s why Bieber fans constantly try to reinvent their favourite phrases so that they appear novel to Twitter’s algorithms and climb back up the rankings. So ‘Justin Bieber’ becomes ‘justinbieber’ and then ‘justinbieber3D’ and so on.
So the only way to be sure that Twitter isn’t blocking #OccupyWallStreet would be to change the term and see if it starts trending, for example using #OccupyWa11Street.
Is Twitter banning the topic? It seems unlikely. Twitter doesn’t have a reputation for doing that sort of thing, and if it could be caught out doing so, the site’s popularity might be severely dented. One thing that’s certain, though, is that the trending topics list takes time into account, so it’s impossible to make a snap judgement about whether or not the topic is genuinely trending.