Troy Davis and the Twitter Black Out Conspiracy

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#TooMuchDoubt

We are not here today to debate the guilt or the innocence of Troy Davis. Troy Davis will receive the death penalty on Wednesday, September 21st for the murder of a police officer in 1989. For information on the case and the recent denial of clemency, see this TIME article. It is one of many. Before we more forward, let me state unequivocally that Troy Davis was convicted of a crime by a jury of his peers. Our thoughts and prayers here at SingleBlackMale.org go out to the family members facing the possible impending death of Troy Davis and to the family members of the slain officer, Mark MacPhail, who have waited 22 years to find out the fate of the man they believe is guilty of comitting this crime. In my opinion, the loss of life is always tragic. However, today we will focus primarily on the role Twitter played during this saga.

As a blogger, a number of people contacted me throughout the day on Tuesday, September 20th with the theory that “Troy Davis” and related topics were being censored on Twitter. I also received an email that day from Courtney Rose-Harris of the NAACP New Media Department in Washington D.C. She asked that I share the story of Troy Davis with my network. The subject line of her email included the hashtag “#TooMuchDoubt.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with Twitter hashtags, these are used to unify related subjects under a similar term. In theory, this will allow a “trend” to begin, whereby more and more attention is drawn to the topic discussed by people with similar interest.

A casual observation of current Twitter trends at the time saw no mention of #TooMuchDoubt or another popular and obvious hashtag, #TroyDavis. Despite the fact that the story was being covered by national news organizations across the country, I gave Twitter the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it simply was not trending worldwide I assumed. With this in mind, I limited Twitter’s trending search to one of Georgia’s largest cities with a high concentration of African Americans, Atlanta. I still saw no mention of #TooMuchDoubt or #TroyDavis trending in this area. I did notice #SideChickBirthdayGifts and #DudesThatSayNoHomo trending 1 and 2, respectively. I found this somewhat suspicious.

By this time, the belief that Twitter was actively censoring and blocking the Troy Davis topic from trending was spreading. Eventually, a member of the music group Outkast tweeted the following:

@BigBoi: #TroyDavis was the #2 trending topic in ATL [Atlanta] 5 minutes ago, now his name has been removed completely!!! Wowzers.

BigBoi’s Tweet was quickly Re-Tweeted over 100+ times. While I have no way of proving it – and no reason to go further because I am not an investigative journalist – there is strong evidence, at minimum, to suggest that Twitter was in fact actively restricting topics related to Troy Davis. It is plausible that this topic may not have trended around the world but is is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that a story generating as much discussion as this topic all around the web would not trend somewhere in the top 10 topics on Twitter. It is far less likely it would not trend in the very city serving as the epicenter of the story.

Even if true, Twitter is well within their right as a free social media site to manipulate and censor topics as it sees fit. In fact, Twitter has made the decision to censor their publicly trending topics on at least two known subjects: (originally) the Egyptian Uprising and WikiLeaks. However, it is misleading for national media outlets and Twitter itself to claim it is the source for an accurate portrayal of what people (or it’s over 200 million members anyway) are discussing.

This 200 million membership just so happens to be 25% African American, which is double the population represented in America. It is interesting that a topic that would likely garner discussion among the members representing a quarter of the population of your site is the one selected for restriction and monitoring. Calling this a “conspiracy” may be far-fetched, maybe even inaccurate. Nevertheless, every article that has sourced Twitter for portraying the interest of predominately young Americans without the disclaimer that topics allowed to trend are themselves manipulated, censored, and filtered is disingenuous at best and willfully misleading at worst. Mind you, these are often the same outlets which lament the topics discussed by Twitter’s members.

This is not a black issue. If you have ever looked at a trending topic on Twitter with shame – and even as a member myself I have on more than one occasion – you may wonder what is Twitter’s motivation for restricting content. Further, what other content are they restricting? What content are they manipulating? After all, this is the same site that allowed #SideChickBirthdayGifts and #DudesThatSayNoHomo to trend on the same day it ALLEGEDLY restricted content referencing #TroyDavis.

Whether we like it or not, these social media websites we participate on – both socially and professionally – are viewed as a representation of us, the members, and yet, here we find that the site we are using is altering that representation. For whose benefit? Who did it serve? In this instance, it did not benefit us, it did not serve us. Instead, it showed the world – ignorant to the content filtering habits of Twitter behind the scenes – Twitter users would rather discuss #SideChickBirthdayGifts and #DudesThatSayNoHomo while #TroyDavis counted down the hours til his death.

We, of course, cannot definitively prove Twitter censored this or any content – content which may cause us to think and reach deeper into our conscious than the topics they deem “OK” for us to consume. There is, however, #TooMuchDoubt they are not. It would seem Twitter believes its users are far too irresponsible, immature and apathetic to form thoughts of their own or think for themselves. I hope they are mistaken.

——————

So what are your thoughts, readers? Is this an illustration of a “Twitter conspiracy” or a reflection of a generation that would rather spend the day discussing #SideChickBirthdayGifts than the death of a possibly innocent man, #TroyDavis? If Twitter is proactively censoring topics, can media organizations source it as an accurate representation of Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, Asians or any other race when the very foundation from which their conclusions generate are manipulated? Admittedly, it’s easy for this generation to dismiss all topics, facts and stories that do not directly effect us. We are egocentric and quite honestly, Twitter is representative of that very fact but if you can take a moment…

Irrespective of your opinion on Troy Davis’ guilt or innocence, if Twitter was your main source of communicating to the masses the plight you or a loved one faced and they silenced you, while calling themselves the source for open communication for this generation, how would you feel?

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  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jermaine-spradley/a-millennial-manifesto-jobs_b_956053.html Most

    Gonna be honest, I have no idea whether this guy did it or not. I do think there's too much reasonable doubt – at this point – to take this man's life. It's been encouraging to see folks motivate and do what they can to stop the execution – but, at this point… it's seeming inevitable. I'll say a prayer for the homey tonight. May God's will be done.
    My recent post The Millennial Manifesto: How 80′s Babies Can Save the World

    • http://theshynarcissist.blogspot.com tSN

      #toomuchdoubt

  • nianaturally

    The #1 TT in Raleigh is #SideChickBirthdayGifts. Yeah, I don't buy it. I find it hard to believe that is the leading TT is several states. Several Southern states… nope, not buying it.

    Conspiracy? Sure, why not. We're talking about a country where the most horrendous acts of terrorism have been carried out against its own citizens by private companies and organizations. Unfortunately, this twitter mess is surprising, but not really.

    When it comes to topics that are important to the black community, we use twitter as a tool to inform, motivate and organize. So, yes, we may be egocentric, but when push comes to shove, we are about the business of us. And not just us, but Japan, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Haiti, etc. We have the power to move twitter in the most amazingly positive direction. I don't believe for a minute that the same is not happening with the Troy Davis case. Twitter has just decided to skew what's really happening on the site today, thus, ensuring media outlets like CNN will not see the Troy Davis case as a hot button issue with Twitter members.
    My recent post My Love Is Like…

  • Ms. Smart

    Yahoo has been caught doing it too.
    http://thinkprogress.org/media/2011/09/20/323856/

  • http://24cokethoughts7.tumblr.com Chantel

    I noticed this for 2 weeks now and it’s true. Troy Davis could never become a trending topic because it’s not entertainment. Anything that proves how injustice this country is will be blocked! My heart aches from following Troy’s case and in the end being denied our rights. We’re ALL Troy Davis. Casey Anthony was charged with reasonable doubt and was freed but when a Black innocent male with NO evidence declaring he did anything, gets charged for the same thing, he STILL gets EXECUTED.

    • Toks

      @Chantel, you’re an ignorant fool and race-baiter… What about O.J Simpson. Stupid tool, the whole lot of you. Think for yourselves and stop being ‘black’

  • Divine

    I am not convinced that he did or did not do it. What I am convinced of is the fact that there is just TOO much reasonable doubt. One of the Jurors has come out and stated that had she known then what she knows now her vote would have been not guilty. I think it is safe to assume that other jurors would have voted no as well. I personally, have conveyed this sentiment to both the DA and the Judge who ultimately is the only one who can stay the execution. As for twitter censoring the issue, anything is possible. I wouldn't be surprised. Unfortunately, my ability to be a part of twitter during the day is limited so I wasn't on there. Taking a look at it now, go figure it definitely is not trending. So I guess they really are censoring. No need to wonder why.
    My recent post The saga of 31

  • https://www.facebook.com/jason.l.gardner Jason Gardner

    I'm certain that they are censoring this TT. There is no way that this would not wind up as a TT in at LEAST one city or state. I just searched "Eli Porter" and I was prompted to refresh because there were three new tweets about him. I searched Troy Davis and was prompted to refresh because there was 7 new tweets about him. I gave each TT a span of 5 seconds. And Eli Porter is the 3rd Trending Topic. Truly a damn shame.

  • http://www.stuffwithmuff.com Ariel Cherie

    If Twitter was your only source of communication, then the world is in shambles. What it boils down to is people just don't care. Don't be mad at the fact that it's not a trending topic on Twitter, let's be mad at ourselves. We let this man down. He's going to die tomorrow, and we really did nothing until the day before his death. Why weren't people tweeting before this moment? And why aren't we looking to other forms of media to be aware?

    In my opinion, the problem is that we are selfish as a generation. We care too much about trivial things and bypass the substantial. Any of us could have been or could become Troy Davis at any moment.

    I do agree with this post, and I feel that it is suspect that it's not a trending topic considering we talked about it all day, but let's be real.
    My recent post The Rise of the Planet of the Male Birds

    • madscientist7

      i agree with everything here.
      My recent post Marriage v. Children

    • nianaturally

      yeah, today isn't the first day I've heard of Troy Davis, and it's not the first time I've seen people in my TL tweet about signing petitions and calling the DA on Troy's behalf. We did not let him down. Some of you just happen to follow the wrong people on twitter…

      And, about those other forms of media? They have always marginalized and straight out ignored issues in the black community. I just heard a story today on Tom Joyner about a young black girl from the Bronx who's been missing for about 2 weeks now. Have you seen anything about that on other forms of media? On the big networks, or in the big print media publications? hate it or love it, Twitter allows us to spread pertinent information in ways we haven't been able to before, an opportunity traditional media has not afforded us.

      Now, I do agree with you in a little. I think people look at us as a selfish generation, but I kinda think that's because we aren't doing things the way folk used to do them, and the positive never receives as much light as the negative. Yea, we want the best for us, but we also want the best for our communities. It just so happens that those who print and televise the news ignore the positives we have done in our communities. Small things that are done everyday by one of the many selfish in our generation.

      Selfish, egocentric is not the true nature of young black people, rather, it's the story that people like to tell, the same story we like to repeat. It's not different from the "all black men are dating/marrying outside the race" "poor pathetic angry black women" nonsense. We need to stop repeating this stuff, and start promoting the good we know we are doing. The good most of us are actually living daily. Like I said in my comment, when it comes down to it, we come together and do what has to be done, what needs to be done.
      My recent post My Love Is Like…

      • Ariel Cherie

        I do agree that we do positive things, but as a whole when thinking about other people's lives we are selfish. We're not willing to make things happen like they did in our parent's day. I'm not saying that it needs to be done in the same exact manner, but the majority of us don't put forth effort. I'm not saying that Twitter is bad and we shouldn't be on it to promote conversation (because that's the point of Twitter), but for every tweet about someone evoking change, there are 15 about Jay-Z/Bey/Kanye whatever…

        And to be honest, it doesn't matter if I'm following the wrong people or not. If people weren't on my timeline weren't talking about Troy Davis it is because they didn't know or didn't care. To me, that's the problem.
        My recent post My 9/11 Blueprint: Living in a Post 9/11 World

        • nianaturally

          I basically agree with what you're saying, except, I like to believe its a case of ignorance, not a case of apathy. I think its more likely that people didn't know, rather than people just didn't care. I see things as glass half-full, not as half-empty. Ignorance of certain issues isn't a good thing, but its understandable when the main sources of info in this country have not or will not report on the issue. And now, with news sources actually getting their news from twitter, the ignorance is full-circle. So unfortunate.

          No matter what happens tonight, I don't think its too late for those who just found out about Troy Davis to make a positive contribution to the struggle. There are more Troy Davises out there that need attention, too. Perhaps, this movement, though may be too late for Troy ( I don't believe that. There's still a chance), it isn't too late for others on death row.
          My recent post My Love Is Like…

    • http://www.WisdomIsMisery.com @WisdomIsMisery

      Only thing I have to say about Twitter is (and Most noticed this first) Casey Anthony is trending because people are comparing her case to Troy Davis. That doesnt make sense. It is what it is.

      You are right, however, I'll admit that I didnt hear about this case until this week. Given that the case is 22 years old, that is poor galvanization of the troops. Further, since I didnt have a deep understanding of the case itself, I largely have stayed out of conversations pertaining to his guilt or innocence.

      For me, and the inspiration for this post, is how much content is Twitter truly censoring?

      • Ariel Cherie

        Unfortunately, I wouldn't be surprised if Twitter was censoring. People censor things they don't know or don't understand. It's not right at all, but it happens. With Casey Anthony, there was a clear consensus that the American public didn't like her. No one likes a baby killer or would ever support them. But with Troy Davis, people aren't sure if he's innocent or guilty (not that it matters), and Twitter most likely looks at this as a black vs. white, and stuff like this can get out of hand. Maybe they feel like they don't want to ruffle any feathers, so the best decision is to remove all together. If they are truly censoring, I can only imagine what else gets talked about by some and unnoticed by the majority of us. I guess we can never know how much they censor.
        My recent post My 9/11 Blueprint: Living in a Post 9/11 World

  • madscientist7

    regardless of whether he did it or not the judicial system is SUPPOSED to convict a person when there is evidence beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are guilty of a crime. in court, the onus is on the prosecution to prove guilt. clearly this case is an example that there is at least the slightest evidence that this man may be innocent.

    personally i'm 100% against the death penalty. when i tell people this i always get asked what if someone murdered someone in your family. my answer would be the same. my moral beliefs won't allow me to take joy or be ok with judging whether someone else lives or dies. only God is supposed to have that type of authority.

    as far as the twitter blackout thing i wouldn't be surprised. its a shame that black men have seen so much injustice at the hands of our legal/justice system that we're almost accustomed to it.
    My recent post Marriage v. Children

    • Beef Bacon

      "as far as the twitter blackout thing i wouldn't be surprised. its a shame that black men have seen so much injustice at the hands of our legal/justice system that we're almost accustomed to it."

      That's what happens when your brainwashed to think everyone is treated equal….although clearly we get shafted daily in this country,

  • Tim

    "this is the same site that allowed #SideChickBirthdayGifts and #DudesThatSayNoHomo to trend on the same day it ALLEGEDLY restricted content referencing #TroyDavis." I mean nothing really surprises me with big corporations who own mass media and social networks…..I have seen misrepresent our community from minstrel shows to tonight shows…Yahoo was restricting emails about Occupy Wallstreet and Twitter was censoring tweets about Troy Anthony Davis…..I never expect good fruit from a bad tree…. This system is not a human that has the potential to exercise compassion and love, it is a cold, heartless machine, that does what it was made to do, which is keep the masses of people from rising.

  • sneezypb

    Easy way to measure how much people are talking about it. Open the terms you want to search in their own tabs. As more updates come in, Twitter gives a count of them. Watch it for a while. At the moment after 7 minutes, #SideChickBirthdayGifts has 100, "troy davis" 100, #toomuchdoubt 56, "Casey Anthony" (the number 7 topic) 28.

  • http://twitter.com/inomallday Shamira

    Man, I could go on forever about my aversion to capital punishment. It so saddening to me that the system seems so bent on ending this mans life when they’re given every possible exit route. While I’m sure the decision wasn’t made lightly, the systems refusal to backtrack in light of new evidence, combined with the correctional systems recent rate of convicting innocent people is more than enough to weigh heavy on your soul. I personally believe that it is no ones right to decide who lives or dies, but that’s neither here nor there. But I have noticed the medias attempt to quash the attention paid to it and it is disheartening to say the least.
    I’d also like to add that it hasn’t gone unnoticed by me that President Obama has been highly reticent on the matter. I’m aware that he has tons on his plate but…his voice would go a long way.

  • prettykeety

    I officially added & defined it as a trending topic at whatthetrend.com. According to the FAQ, as long as a few thousand or so people tweet & retweet using the hashtag #troydavis within an unspecified number of hours, it should become a trending topic. We shall see.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mikasthoughts Mika

    This is the 2nd time I have had such an issue with Twitter. The 1st time, I really considered “boycotting” the site–but in the end, I chose not to. Once again, I feel like deleting my account….but then I’m wondering as black people: is this our fight? If the black out is true, is this our cause to fight? I’m really torn, with this one.

    As far as Troy Davis…this is totally an injustice and I did my part. I don’t want to take the focus off him and his execution.

    The activist in me feels like I need to somehow address the so called Twitter black out. If our important topics are being censored perhaps this should be looked into…its like when #blackhistorymonth didn’t trend at all in February of 2009 and 2010 I believe.

    I’d like to hear everyones thoughts.

    • @WisdomIsMisery

      It is a confusing position to be in. To boycott a service I truly enjoy (I dont use Facebook or really any other medium other than my own site) or sit back and watch as they are blatantly hypocritical. The thing is, beyond Twitter, I believe as a generation we are becoming more and more accepting of people not living up to their word. Like I said on Twitter before I ever wrote this post:

      I'm surprised but I'm not shocked.

  • http://twitter.com/bruiser_ham Larry

    I agree with many of the comments here. But as an aside, I'm figuring out how African-Americans make up 25% of the 200 million twitter members (which would be about 50 million people) and then make up around 12% of the 300 million or so people in this country (around 36 million people). i'll go ahead an assume one person has multiple accounts or some other simple explanation, but I just caught that and was wondering….but don't mind me. Carry on. Great post, WIM.

    • @WisdomIsMisery

      Going to be honest here, sir. I have no idea how to respond. I grabbed that 200 million number of Wikipedia so it could very well be wrong. I actually have no idea how Twitter or anyone calculates their user base. My only guess is that the 25% is probably proportional not actual. So perhaps they count all those accounts assigned to Google on Twitter as "one" for example. I swear Google has like 10 accounts. Same with CNN. Again, I can only guess.

      • http://twitter.com/inomallday Shamira

        thats easy – twitter is an international service thats used in multiple countries and continents – so looking at the American demographic isnt going to reflect the same numbers – especially if the proportion shows "black" and not just "African-American" usage which opens up the door to a whole host of other twitter users. Its all about the framing…
        My recent post inomallday: RT @CNBC: Apple To Introduce iPhone5 On Oct. 4 – All Things Digital

    • DeKeLa

      That was the first question I asked myself when I read that in the article. Unless they are just including all black populace around the world to mean "African American" then it's impossible for this number to be true. IF that is what they mean… I know a few Canadian, French and German Blacks who would be offended.

  • smartfoxgirl

    <div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-196052256"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(196052256)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" target="_new" href="http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2 Fwww.singleblackmale.org%2F2011%2F09%2F20%2Ftroy-davis-and-the-twitter-black-out-conspiracy%2F#IDComment196052256&t=I%20just%20commented%20on%20Troy%20Davis%20and%20the%20Twitter%20Black%20Out%20Conspiracy" style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(196052256)">Close MessageThis post is very well written WIM. I had to email a few ppl as your thoughts are spot on and well written. I'm actually impressed and proud at how much influence African Americans have online. We push a lot of trends in social media, music, fashion, etc. For a group of people that make up 12% of the population, that's unbelievable. I'm not surprised Twitter obviously censored his case. He's an accused "cop killer" so it's to be expected. (I don't personally agree and I hate the death penalty) I wish Twitter would censor a lot more ignorance but their priority is $. My question is why do they care enough to do that when obviously the media hasn't stop talking about it. Either way, well said and censorship is never going away.

  • Lioness Rising

    twitter 100% filters and alters trending topics.Just my observations from what never becomes trending and what does. I also believe they make up some of the trending topics themselves…

    Honestly I am just hearing about this case. I don't think it has been getting as much attention as it should except for these past few days. Maybe if it had been more prominent in the news then the young people would have more to say. But alas, Black defendants rarely get that Casey Anthony type of attention.
    My recent post Missoni Mess and Consumerist Crackheads

  • peter parker

    i can't speak on the case. i havent heard about it, until last week, and i haven't read any articles on it. there are people out there that know more about the case, that i believe should speak more about whether he's guilty or innocent.

    i'm not a fan, nor am i a hater of, the death penalty. however it has been shown that an overwhelming majority of those that have been put to death, look like me (Black Men). or maybe it's one particular state. i'm not sure.

    however, i would not be surprised that twitter engineers would arrange algorithms and such so that something that many people are tweeting about, would be rather insignificant.

    or perhaps it's the fact that Ray-J beefing with Fabolous is a bigger deal to the actively twittering population than Troy Davis?

    i dunno.
    My recent post kjnetic: I'm at 3 Huntington Quadrangle (3 Huntington Quadrangle, Melville) <a href="http://t.co/usOrikIj” target=”_blank”>http://t.co/usOrikIj

  • koalasaurus

    Long time lurker, first time comnenter… I really like your writing and wanted to show some luv for an article that wasn't about dating. I had no idea this was happening and am sad for Troy Davis et al (tho i still believe in the death penalty) and am outraged that twitter would limit the right to free speech.

  • koalasaurus

    *commenter

    • @WisdomIsMisery

      Thanks for stopping by and speaking.

      I'm kind of torn here. Twitter is a business. It's also free and we (well I'm not) are not shareholders. As such, they are technically free to do whatever they want and as long as "whatever they want" doesnt alienate their users they can keep on doing it. I am interested by the topics they choose to censor versus those they do not. I think #TroyDavis is simply one example of any number of topics I'm sure they censor on a day to day basis.

  • http://www.silentscorpion.blogspot.com Silent Scorpion

    I don't doubt that they are censoring the trend on twitter but I really don't understand what are they trying to downplay. Nothing surprises me anymore, social networking sites aren't run by robots. They are run by humans, with their own personal biases and interests in gains. I'm not sure what the "precaution" is in this case, nor am I well versed enough on the case to speak any further than this. This isn't the first case of selective censorship, and it won't be the last. White men in suits will continue to dictate what can be consumed. What are we to do next is my question? if anything?
    My recent post Who's To Blame?

  • Stacey

    I find it odd that #BETawards was a trending topic and #troydavis was not. IJS.

  • Lola

    Omg WIM you wrote this piece so well! I am speachless! *starts forwarding post* I’ll be back! Just wanted to say that for now! Lol

  • nowsayitwithme

    Sad to say, I have been seeing these Troy Davis tweets for over a week now and I didn't so anything til today. It's been mentioned but people just don't care a lot of times. And there are more selfish things people would rather do than care about the state of an innocent man charged with murder. Who'd proudly admit that Ray J, Fab, Side Chick needs and "no homo" saying guys were more popular than Troy Davis? We can only hope something turns this case around in the few hours left.

    Twitter seems to be the go-to for an update on current events. People "tune in" to Twitter for award shows, "news" and what have yous. But It's obvious they're censoring the Troy Davis issue. What are you going to do though? What CAN you do? I don't think there's much else I can do. I've RT'd it a lot today with some tweets (that will be censored). Dedicated a shared post on Facebook (likely to be censored) and sent an email (which I can only hope isn't ignored). My attempts and the attempts of everyone else will either go unnoticed or someone will finally see the light. *shrug*

    A lot of people tried. I googled the story and was at least pleased to see that people have been fighting this since. It's just… I dunno. My brain's run dry of frustrated thoughts to type out..
    My recent post Brown Sugar: A Love Like This

  • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

    Hm, unless something is tabloid journalism, Twitter is rarely to feature any type of major news trending that isn't already promoted elsewhere on the internet or television. I'm surprised people are finding out this early that there is censorship going on though. I mean TwitterAfterDark is pretty much always one of the top tweets each night and it's never up. When the women's team lost to Japan in soccer they didn't exactly put up all the racist comments up there either.

    • prettykeety

      I honestly had no idea.

  • http://codecipher.blogspot.com MeteorMan

    I'm feeling this, WIM. Add-on: Trending topics aren't only created by using hashtags. A Hashtag are simply tool to allow for easy/fast searches via their API. Trending topics themselves are derived from common phrases from tweets/mentions because they parse and analyze every tweet sent.

    When twitter introduced their business model, it included paid accounts for businesses. When allowed for trending topics (and tweets) OF THE COMPANY'S CHOOSING to be "promoted" and thus shown as a trending topic.

    Look here: http://business.twitter.com/advertise/start/

    I'm not saying that everyone with a business account wanted #SideChickBirthdayGifts to trend. But rather I'm saying Twitter has the ability to demote a tweet or trend into oblivion and promote another into the top 2. Think about it, why did twitter start having so many issues once it announced it's business model? It's not because of usage overload… Oh no. It's the tweet parsing, processing and searches. Everytime you update your timeline that's a "search" query. Many mobile apps update your timeline after sending a tweet. Their "algorithm" asserts that when a person tweets more, they "search"/update more to see what others are saying. We all know, that people read more than they tweet. Let me restate that… an account pulls more query results then the number of submissions (tweets) it creates. Hence, the simplest way to control information would be not to censor the tweets but rather the searches and the easiest search to censor would be a trending topic.

    ALL search engines have some concept of result "relevancy." For twitter, the criteria seem to be absolute time, the phrase itself, search demand (#'s of searches for a topic), geo location of "account", and finally #'s of occurrences. There are probably more though… But here's its easy to see it as a 5 dimensional space. Given twitter knows all these variables, they can pinpoint to individual G that said X and never retweeted Y and who mentioned these specific persons where H of them follow individual G, J <=H had individual G as a follower. Now they can constant do that over and over to obtain a mapping of an entire network of people that had similar thoughts at time T and thus did a search. Simple math… They can easily map out the spectrum public opinion via location and time. See where I'm going with this?

    I could be wrong but that's highly unlikely. I don't work for twitter, but I know what it would take to implement such a system.
    My recent post How to implement an OODBMS (pt. 1)

    • http://www.WisdomIsMisery.com WisdomIsMisery

      About to call it a night, for now, but as usual Meteor, I believe you are right on point. Great analogy and breakdown.
      My recent post Maybe I Should Have Called Her

  • Muze

    Very well written post, WIM.

    i've been hearing about this case for about a month now, as one of my friends works in the legal system in Georgia, and i'm surprised people haven't been rallying about this before now. it's sad that our idea of "justice" is taking a life for a life. and what happened to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

    the effort is inspiring, but after so many appeals and denials to appeals and obvious firm determination to end that man's life, regardless of who (desmond tutu, former presidents, etc) calls for at least a new trial, i think it is pretty clear that they are intent on putting him to death. too little too late.

    as far as twitter censorship goes, i think this is an often practiced thing with twitter. let the negroes talk about sidechicks and sh*t that doesn't matter at all. and honestly, i think this is a direct result of the powers that be seeing what happened during the Oscar Grant case, and them trying to prevent that. they want people to believe we can only unite for barbecues and BET awards.
    My recent post concrete jungle where dreams are maaaade of….

  • marselluswallace

    So what your saying is Twitter is out to see Troy Davis executed? Seems like everyone's first thought is censoring when their political or current event topic isn't trending.

    • http://www.therealslimjackson.com Slim Jackson

      I'm gonna have to strongly disagree. You took this to another level.

      I think it's painfully obvious that something's happening here that isn't right. Let's just recognize this for what it is and let the other agendas simmer for at least 24 hours.
      My recent post Putting on the Blinker: Lane Change Ahead

      • marselluswallace

        Well its trending now so I wonder what happened to the blackout. It seems like it was obvious that people were more interested in talking about the usual topics Bieber or sidechicks.

    • Top5DOA

      -99p tho Bro?!?! Didn't even know that was possible … Either you just say dumb sh*t ALL THE TIME or some folk have some serious hate for you. Hoping it's the latter, but with that comment the former is a possibility

      • marselluswallace

        I'm just not sheep like the rest of you. Like I said its trending now so what do you think of my comment now?

        • Top5DOA

          Ok let's use common sense here … Since the idea of conversation, debate, and protests brings about change … A topic that was CLEARLY tweeted about in large number across the Twitter landscape was hidden from a search standpoint all of yesterday and the fact that it was censored was recognized by a large number of users yesterday. Not only did people recognize the fact that #TroyDavis was virtually unsearchable, but they also decided to tweet this very fact and i'm sure Twitter noticed this. NOW (a day later) it's trending … You see what happened there. Popular topic not trending … day later it's trending. You'd be a fool to think that it's trending today had nothing to do with the fact that it was purposely hidden yesterday … If Trending Topics had a day lag on them they'd no longer trend cuz there'd be a new trend for that present day.

          By the way, i don't think the people behind Twitter wants him executed … They prolly just wanted to stay out of this judicial firestorm, but that's the reasonable, logic person in me talking.

          Hopefully all of that made sense.

        • marselluswallace

          <div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-196285387"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(196285387)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" target="_new" href="http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2 Fwww.singleblackmale.org%2F2011%2F09%2F20%2Ftroy-davis-and-the-twitter-black-out-conspiracy%2F%23IDComment196274190#IDComment196285387&t=I%20just%20commented%20on%20Troy%20Davis%20and%20the%20Twitter%20Black%20Out%20Conspiracy" style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(196285387)">Close MessageIt doesn't cause we simply disagree. It seems clear looking at these "Who is Troy Davis" tweets that a lot of people weren't aware. One that's on my TweetDeck now is "Idk who Troy Davis is *shrugs*". It also seems obvious that people were exaggerating how many #troydavis tweets were being sent yesterday if its trending today. I'd like to see where Twitter has a policy to block certain political or current events. Sure it was a popular topic but lets remember what kind of topics dominate Twitter: #youknowyoughetto. Why would Twitter want him to stay out of this "judicial firestorm?" What "judicial firestorm?" It seems like all the courts have made up their mind all the way up to the SCOTUS.

          Also, not necessary directed at you but I wonder why more people don't tweet at @Twitter more often it seems like they would be more likely to be aware of these things.

        • Top5DOA

          Societal judicial firestorm* or is that an oxymoron.

          The approach ur taking is of disent and devil's advocacy, which is often the stance taking by the majority (I.e. Racism doesn't exist because our President is black or because some other dumb azz reason). It's easy to use the obvious and the art of acting/being naive as a means to discredit someone else's assertion. Sure #TroyDavis wasn't trending yesterday cuz the number of tweets weren't enough to be an identified TT … C'mon bro … Your prolly a Republican and i think Marsellus Wallace would prolly be upset with your delineation of this issue, but to each his own.

          As far as directing @Twitter with stuff … I agree that it should happen more, but i've seen people do it tho.

          *After a little research, i got to the bottom of the -98p rating … Shame on me for assuming that you only get on blogs such as this … Seems like you got a rise out of a gang of Sarah Palin fans … Lol*

        • http://www.WisdomIsMisery.com WisdomIsMisery

          Good points Top. I'd also like to add that here in America, land of the free, there have been (known) censorship recently. For example, in San Francisco, they cut or limited cell service – which they've admitted – to restrict the organization of protest on the Bart case.

          Twitter has already admitted to censoring topics nor does it say anywhere in their business plan what they will or will not officially censor. I believe "obscenities" is the only clear mention. In practice, they seem to influence or censor "offensive" material as well. As any judge/cop/person with common sense will tell you, offensive is subjective.

          Lastly, the very fact that Twitter has "promoted" Trends (for business) is indicative of their ability to influence topics they want influenced. Why anyone would assume they couldnt do the inverse – not promote or influence topics they dont want discussed – is….well, lets just say it's interesting.

        • Top5DOA

          Good addition.

        • marselluswallace

          Not a Republican but I am a conservative libertarian which on a lot of issues some people would say is the same. The ironic thing is my views aren't too different from them but I don't worship Palin so it doesn't matter.

        • http://www.WisdomIsMisery.com WisdomIsMisery

          Twitter's CEO speaks: Twitter Admits Editing Offensive Topics, Plans More
          http://blog.tweetsmarter.com/twitter-rules/twitte

          You are welcome to draw your own conclusions. As it is clear you already have. I respect your opinion but I do not agree.

  • Julie

    In the time it took me to read this article, there were 173 new mentions of Troy Davis. And it's not trending? Conspiracy.

  • maverickin

    I'm not a Twitter user, but I think WIM raised some important questions. Who is determining these trending topics, and why was the Troy Davis trending topic taken down? I would be curious to know the answer… if we involve the news we'd be more likely to get one. Send a line to CNN, letting them know what happened, and why this was strange.

    If we don't say something about it now, then you can expect to be silenced next time you want to use Twitter to get a message across…. just a quick line. It takes like 2 secs. I also included HuffPost since they tend to have a more liberal slant.

    SUBMIT NEWS IDEA/TIP TO CNN: http://www.cnn.com/feedback/hdlns/
    SUBMIT NEWS IDEA/TIP TO HUFF POST: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/contact/pop/

    My recent post Made Up Face to the World.

  • MastaMp3

    Also earlier in the day Lupe fiasco was trying to trend occupywallstreet that never made it either so twitter defiantly makes it seem they are censoring what is trending and what is not

  • RobertfromKenya

    a lot of pain going on here, though i think its time Americans gave more thought to the right of life issue. Am from Kenya where we recently passed a new constitution that has banned capital punishment(which had been halted since 1989) and i believe the American people and not the political elite(and Obama for that matter)can bring real change to your country.

  • AB

    You can contact Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-353-1555 and urge him to intercede on behalf of. Troy Davis.

    • http://livelovesingwithme.tumblr.com LiveLoveSing

      You can also call Judge Penny Freeseman at 912.652.7252 and leave a message asking her to rescind the death warrant.
      My recent post Word

  • Bahama

    Let us not ignore the fact that twitter is a user service, and users were indeed tweeting about side chicks #andotherstupidstuff. This conspiracy can’t be solely placed at Twitter’s feet, a coverup is only successful when you allow it to be. There is obvious passion either about this case or about this coverup, so why not do something about it. This post is great, don’t get me wrong but if we all just comment on it and go right back to tweeting, what will that solve? “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” and sad to say us humans are falling. Twitter doesn’t have the control over what we tweet or what can be placed as a #TT, though it might seem that way…..it still all comes down to the users. So while Twitter is doing the coverup, so are the folks that are tweeting about whatever ignorant trending topic that’s up.

    This case is sad, another black man will be murdered. And I wonder what the trending topics will read then.

    • Beef Bacon

      "This case is sad, another black man will be murdered. And I wonder what the trending topics will read then"

      Say it again!

  • T

    @BigBoi: #TroyDavis was the #2 trending topic in ATL [Atlanta] 5 minutes ago, now his name has been removed completely!!! Wowzers.

    This user seems to have deleted their account (or been banned). When I click on @BigBoi in the article it goes to a page that says “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”

  • Dr. J

    I am really proud to be a part of this site at times like this. This article was spot on and it was needed. Thanks to all the readers who participated in the discussion and read, despite that our more popular content is typically relationships. #SBMThanksYou.

    I don't believe in coincidences. I just don't. I know for a fact that Twitter took down the trending topic. And for Twitter to receive so many @'s yesterday and not respond just lets you know that something is up. That's horrible PR, horrible. They should have at least responded.

    Also, don't walk away the last time he was supposed to be executed, he was granted clemency just two hours before he was set to be executed. That means we haven't lost yet, so keep tweeting and spreading the word. I don't give a hell if we're late to the game, let's at least make an effort.

    A few things about the case, not to play devil's advocate but only to inform you guys so that we present the best perspectives. The Appeals process is very different than the original Trial process. An appeal is not a jury of your peers, and it's not about the facts of the case, it's about the case law. In order to overturn the decision, they have to prove that the process of which the decision was determined was flawed. There's some confusion around this. I don't understand that all the way, but I can tell you this much, there's nothing to suggest that the original prosecutor did anything wrong. Also, a life has already been taken and while we don't want to make that two, let's not forget the family of the police officer Mark MacPhail. They deserve closure. Let's not be insensitive to the fact that in 1989, whether by the hands of Troy or not, they lost a family member. Take both of these things in account as you search for the strength to press on to save Troy's life. I want to save a man's life, but I want to do that the right way. The flawed legal process in America is just as much to blame as anyone, but I only want this victory, if it's done the right way.

    In my mind because I would be remiss if I didn't mention this, there's no way we as a people can support, #FreeWeezy, #FreeTI, #FreeGucci, or any other version of those trending topics and not take the time to sign the petition. We just can't. All three of those guys were guilty and we wanted their freedom, now let's get off our ass and do something for a just cause.
    My recent post My First Blog (The Final post on The Book of Jackson)

    • http://www.WisdomIsMisery.com WisdomIsMisery

      I agree.

      I'd also like to thank SBM for allowing me to get this post out there and the many SBM readers for sharing it. Seriously, can't thank everyone enough.
      My recent post Maybe I Should Have Called Her

  • DeKeLa

    On the topic of whether he did it or not, who knows? I'm not going to pretend to know the details of a 22 year old case. There are quite a few prisoners who maintain their innocence. I'm also not going to pretend that I'm against Capital punishment. Supporting the life of criminals at a cost that far surpass K-12 education investment doesn't make any sense to me.

    Regards to Twitter censoring the timeline? Of course they did! It doesn't take rocket science to see that a National topic which doesn't make top 10 is an issue. No conspiracy, and it is up to their discretion to do so. Twitter is just one aspect of social media and not one that we can control.

  • prettykeety

    Twitter Admits Editing "Offensive" Trending Topics:
    http://blog.tweetsmarter.com/twitter-rules/twitte

    via @BusaBusss

  • cynicaloptmst81

    Hadn't heard about the case till Monday on Mike Baisden's show…signed a petition yesterday.

    Mark's family deserves justice…but not with doubt in the mix. 9 witnesses and 7 recant?! 1 of the remaining 2 was a suspect?! GOH… #toomuchdoubt

    If this post is true, shame on the Twitter powers that be…

  • http://livelovesingwithme.tumblr.com LiveLoveSing

    Great write-up WIM. This whole ordeal just makes me feel powerless. There's so many things wrong, the first being that I only heard about this a little under 2 weeks ago. I don't know if it's an issue of simply not knowing where to look or that we really don't have as much access to the news as we'd like. I'm a member of the NAACP…where were my emails about this before last week?! I take issue with certain parts of the case, but I wasn't following in 1991 or at anytime thereafter so I can't really speak to those. All I know is that there is too much doubt in this case. But what really gets me is the censorship. Twitter is a private company and all of that but they PORTRAY themselves as a site that magnifies the voice of its users. Twitter wasn't trying to be another private company that could do what it wants when corporations heralded them for being a catalyst for what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. I am not-so-patiently waiting for Twitter's response – because I really don't see what's offensive about #TooMuchDoubt.

    • http://livelovesingwithme.tumblr.com LiveLoveSing

      There isn't much I can do from my desk at this point but call Attorney General Eric Holder at 202.355.1555 to intercede and Judge Penny Freeseman at 912.652.7252 to rescind the warrant. I encourage all those who support the cause to do the same.

  • http://www.WisdomIsMisery.com WisdomIsMisery

    For your reading pleasure: Twitter Admits Editing Offensive Topics, Plans More
    http://blog.tweetsmarter.com/twitter-rules/twitte

    A quote from Twitter's CEO @DickC: The trends are algorithmic, not chosen by us but we edit out any w/ obscenities & I'd like to see clearly offensive out too.

    Maybe they found the trend offensive. Maybe it contained offensive content. However, it is clear Twitter is very capable of and in fact, proactively (which I assumed already ) editing Trends as they see fit.
    My recent post Maybe I Should Have Called Her

  • Beef Bacon

    There are KKK flier being passed around in Virginia and its a hot topic on the daily local news as we speak. I see through the new story and understand that its a slick way to get the word our that certain people are rallying.

    We should have BEEN outraged a long time ago. Most don't even understand how and why this is all happening. Anyone on of US could be Troy Davis…..think about that! The way the republican party clapped at that debate about the death penalty was a reflection of the true hearts of some in this country. I don't agree with the death penalty since we will never know it a person is truly innocent or guilty in this country. How can we, given this country's history? I wouldn't trust the choices made by 99% of these judges and people…half of them secretly have hate towards US in their hearts.

    Since most of us have falling for the banana int he tail pipe, its hard to understand why things like thing continue to happen in 2011. Why are you all still SHOCKED? Have we not realized YET that the U.S. Constitution was drafted without US in mind? We were considered property not men and women.

    This is a the consequence of Black men and women being everything but what they should be. We are so caught up in silly nonsense that we can't see straight. Entertainment is 90% of what we strive for….shucking and jiving. WE know everything about celebrity and nothing about our neighbors. We live in a fantasy world where we live vicariously through them so we won't realize what's REALLY going on in the world. Ignorance is not an excuse anymore.

    iCant.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mikasthoughts Mika

    If you signed the petition with NAACP or Amnesty International, you are now members of the online community of these organizations. Whatever the outcome of this, I encourage us all to continue taking action with them. Let’s not forget about Troy–because the cause/fight/struggle doesn’t end with him.

  • marselluswallace

    This is pretty amusing actually if your looking at some of these "Who Is Troy Davis" tweets. One guy just said "Somebody tell me who Troy Davis is……Now!!!" and a girl just said "Who tf is Troy Davis" and "I ain't been watching the news." Earlier I said there was no Twitter conspiracy to remove a Troy Davis and as usual people attack a dissenting opinion.

    • cynicaloptmst81

      WOW regarding your reputation score!!!!

      Its like your Scarlet Letter or something, lol. What in the world did you do to the IntenseDebate gods to deserve this???? LOL.

      Man…thats deep.

      • marselluswallace

        It's simple just disagree with a majority on a blog site. You get the same results when you disagree with a group any where else. There are people out there who are simply trolls but that is beneath me.

  • Marselluswallace

    Not sure why I can’t login anymore seems like the whole format of this blog has changed. The man said obscenities and offensive trends and #troydavis doesn’t match those descriptions. I’ve seen this more than once. I was following the #occupywallstreet trend and people were saying it was censored but #takewallstreet was trending. People were saying that the news wasn’t covering it but I saw it on CNN International first and then check Twitter to see if people were talking about it.

    • http://www.WisdomIsMisery.com WisdomIsMisery

      I believe the problem here is we are originating from two different opinions to begin with. If you believe the media is 100% open with the public, never biased, and reports all information openly and honestly, for the public to make engaged and informed decisions on their own without due influence – well, I'm not so sure about that. For instance, the majority of the time the major news networks cant even agree on a story. We're all human, so there's bound to be human influence. Such is life. Moving on.

      I discussed this on Twitter but I imagine there was some if not a lot offensive material going on in #TroyDavis and related topics. Honestly, you would be foolish to believe otherwise. Now, I believe Twitter censored the subject – since you do not – it seems pointless to even have this conversation.

      With that said, Twitter may have very well censored the subject to "protect us from ourselves." Maybe, as a business, they simply didnt want to be involved. Whatever the justification, in my opinion, it did happen – and it will happen again. This was merely a "case study." There will be other events.
      My recent post Maybe I Should Have Called Her

      • marselluswallace

        I believe every news organization is biased and I have no problem with it because I don't think any organization can be unbiased. We have agreed to disagree so i'll leave it alone.

  • Streetz

    As a writer on this site, and a media person period, I love being a part of this!

    I will admit that I didn't know wtf a Troy Davis was until I researched. I am pro death penalty, but seeing situations like this puts things in perspective. The amount of doubt in the case, the recants of testimony, I mean… legally he doesn't deserve to die!

    Casey Anthony got off based on reasonable doubt. Even if they convicted her, there was no way she would've got the chair. Same difference here.

    use your voice, fcuk the haters, and make things happen. not just on social media either!

    Salute WIM!
    My recent post [Synopsis] A Taste Of TrueBlood Episode 48 – And When I Die Season Finale

  • NaijaSweetz

    WIM, I'm really glad you made this post last night, as this was what brought the Troy Davis case to my attention. I even said a prayer for him last night. I just took a reading break and was happy to find out that the execution has been delayed (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/22/troy-davis-execution-delayed). It's a start. I'm happy to see people fighting for what they believe to be justice, and that the supreme court has taken notice.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Top5DOA Top5DOA

    Sad news … US Supreme Court denied the stay, so it's just a matter of time til Georgia goes through with the execution.

    God Rest his Soul and my heart goes out to all the families directly involved.

    • NaijaSweetz

      11:08 pm.. RIP.

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  • Truth Be Told

    When it comes to Troy Davis, I wonder if the Justice system (lawyers, judges etc.) know something that the media or regular people don't know. I mean, I know we don't know ALL the details of the case. But what I do know is NO ONE has ever come out to deny the fact that 7 out of 9 witnesses recanted their stories, there has been no weapon or DNA evidence, of the 2 witnesses who haven't recanted their stories, one is acutally a principle alternative suspect and 9 individuals have signed affidavits implicating him, he has already been granted 3 stays based on doubt and last but not the least (although I know this doesn't exactly hold a lot of weight), he has maintained his innocence throughout. Is there another definition for REASONABLE DOUBT??? All these people who signed off on his execution believe, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT that he's guilty? You want to believe so badly, try desperately even, to believe that we have come far as a nation. Then something like this happen and you question yourself, wonder if you're not the most naive person on earth. RIP Troy Davis.

  • http://www.alittlequirky.com/ Yasmine

    I came across this site a few months ago but have never felt the need to comment, until now. I do not have a twitter, so I cannot personally attest to the censoring that went on yesterday, but plenty of people filled up my newsfeed on FB about it. I cannot understand why they censored it… I tried rationalizing it; maybe they removed the #TroyDavis hashtag so people will not post ignorant, hate-ridden comments about Troy Davis… but then what about the #TooMuchDoubt hashtag? Hmmm. Idk. Just hearing about Twitter censoring those hashtags really rubs me the wrong way and I cannot full articulate why. I really feel like they wanted people to remain ignorant about the situation (I had only heard about it about four years ago from a friend in school) and not bring the unjustly murder to the forefront of Twitter, which is a shame.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SimplyMzG Erika Tucker Gresham

    I came across your post while searching for something else. I posed this very question to Twitter as to how #youknowyoughetto is trending and not #troydavis. As I sat and watched DemocracyNow's live stream and followed a friend's tweets who was on the scene in Jackson, I quickly realized that the government and media know exactly what's happening. The presence of so many officers revealed their fears. I believe there was never any intention of staying Troy Davis's execution. I believe America was placed on pause long enough for everyone to position themselves for the worse. Social media has proven it's relevance in our culture. It has proven that it has the ability to allow people to unite for a variety of common causes that may result in a peaceful demonstration or a country in turmoil. Just look at the UK riots.

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  • amara_love

    This article really made me think. I'm not on twitter but to say that the troy davis case might not have generated enough international interest to be trending worldwide is just impossible. In London this was front page news!! I also like the point about twitter being free to censor if they choose to – but there need to be some international regulations regarding how twitter bosses censor public domain info. Or at least some slightly more visible disclaimers. This kind of sway over public perception is too much to be abused…but hey it happens every day.

    The case itself saddens me. I'm for the death penalty in theory but I'm glad I live in a country where it's not done because in practice killing just sucks.

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