news Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute| August 7, 2014| 7.30 pm IST

Over the last few days, Twitter has been on fire discussing the Meerut rape case in which a 20 year old Madarasa teacher had alleged that she was forcibly converted to Islam, confined and gangraped in a Madarasa.

Adding to the gangrape angle, it was the issue of forced conversion that made the debate on Twitter fiercer, pointed and at many times vitriolic.

But for more than a day, some Twitter users have been raising queries as to why the hashtag #Meerutgangrape was no longer getting auto filled on the Twitter search bar.

On Twitter, there is a search bar where one can search for users, tweets, photos or hashtags. When one tries to fill a popular hashtag, the search normally auto fills it. But in this case, #Meerutgangrape is not appearing, instead #Meerutgangrap comes.

This has lead to the question: Has Twitter India manipulated and disabled the hashtag?

The News Minute asked Twitter India why the hashtag was not appearing on autofill. Though there was no official reply, a source in Twitter India requesting anonymity said, “We don't comment on trends etc but I can assure you we have no control over or we don't censor trends or content.”

So why is this hashtag not appearing? The reply was, “Maybe a lot of people have tweeted using the incomplete hashtag and that's why it doesn't auto complete. We have nothing to do with it either way.”

There are not too many instances in the past where Twitter has been accused of manipulating trends on autofill. In 2010, questions had been raised on why the word “Wikileaks” was failing to appear in Twitter’s trending topics. This was a time Wikileaks revelations were much in news.

Following this, Twitter released an official statement. Twitter rejected the allegation that they were blacking out the trend, and instead explained how topics trended.

• “Twitter Trends are automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously.”
• “Put another way, Twitter favors novelty over popularity.”
• “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.”

In July 2011, the same question was put forward by a Twitter user, to which Twitter CEO Dick Costolo replied, “Trends are algorithmic, not chosen by us but we edit out any w/ obscenities & I'd like to see clearly offensive out too.”

Twitter rule to control Abuse and Spam says, “Twitter strives to protect its users from abuse and spam. User abuse and technical abuse are not tolerated on Twitter.com, and may result in permanent suspension. Any accounts engaging in the activities specified below may be subject to permanent suspension.”

For trending topics and hashtags, the rule says, “If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #, trending or popular topic, or promoted trend,” it becomes abuse or spam.

With Twitter India saying they have nothing to do with the hashtag's disappearance from autofill, the question of where the hashtag disappeared becomes even more pertinent. 

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