Gaza’s #Flotilla — Has Twitter Joined the Censoring Game?

Last night there was a brutal and barbaric attack by the Israeli Defense Forces on a humanitarian aid convey that was making its way to Gaza to protest the siege that has been in place for more than 2 years. The humanitarian aid convey had activists from several nationalities and even included a holocaust survivor.

The biggest ship of the flotilla was surrounded by Israeli naval ships in international waters and boarded by Israeli soldiers whom attacked and killed at least 10 and injured tens of the 600 activists on board of the ship.

There was a huge outcry by people from around the world, and international countries were unanimous in condemning the attacks which might have breached international accords since they took place while the ships were in international waters. On the backdrop of the attacks, it seemed that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, will have to cancel this week’s visit to the USA out of fear of being shamed again by the administration.

So What happened on Twitter?

Israel, Flotilla, Gaza, FreedomFlotilla on Trendistic

Israel, Flotilla, Gaza, FreedomFlotilla on Trendistic

Given that it was breaking news, people took up the cause and started talking about it on Twitter where it would have logically became a trending topic since a lot of people were using the hashtags #flotilla, #Freedom, and #Gaza but then something strange happened. Other tags with less mentions got to be trending, but not those. So speculation ran amok trying to understand what exactly happened and what might have been the reason that not only those tags didn’t trend but if people tried to search for them on the Twitter stream they would get an error.

Trending on Trendistic (no censoring)

Trending on Trendistic (no censoring)

So rumors started flying that Twitter was censoring their stream for one reason or another, and since it’s a topic as polarizing as the Israeli-Palestinian struggle people took note, so what might have really happened here?

Option #1 – Blame it on the machine

It was 3 a.m. in the states so maybe the big tweeps weren’t up to censor the stream and instead it’s the new Twitter trending algorithm which places more weight on trends that spike in popularity rather than the ones that have been trending for a long time. That would explain why Gaza or Freedom weren’t trending.

Option #2 – A spam False Positive

Maybe the Twitter spam filters identified the tag for one reason or another as spam and decided to block it. Perhaps due to the sharp spike in its popularity?

Option #3 – Rogue Twitter Employee

Maybe a Twitter employee wasn’t such a big fan of so many pro-Palestinian trending topics on Twitter and wanted to do something about it and decided to sabotage the system. It is a very unlikely scenario but it is a possible explanation for the mysterious vanishing of the tags regarding only the tags that are pro-Palestinian while that of Israel was still functioning.

The issue disappeared a few hours later and tweeps counteracted the glitch by switching to the #freedomflotilla hash-tag which is still trending amongst others related to the incident.

So what do you think happened? Let us hear your thoughts.

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