Probably one of the most tweeted questions on Twitter is “Why is this trending?” which some people ask whenever they see a random or weird thing starts trending. While you will see tweets related to this topic or hashtag, it doesn’t really offer a quick explanation and can even lead you down a rabbit hole of tweets. trying to figure out why it trended in the first place. Now Twitter will be adding pinned tweets and even an explanation for the trending topic, making it easier to become in the know and maybe join in on the topic.
If you head to Twitter’s trending topics now, you’ll see some of those trends already have a tweet pinned to it so you can get an explanation right away. They’re using a combination of algorithms and their curation team to determine if the tweet is “very reflective of the trend” and also popular or has been retweeted several times already. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also see brief descriptions added to some of these trends to give you context without having to spend hours looking for an explanation.
While this is all well and good, some are saying that this is just a band-aid for a big Twitter problem. We’ve seen how people and entities can manipulate the trends and has been gamed by bots and trolls to spread misinformation and worse, hateful information on the platform. Twitter employees and digital advocates have long called for Twitter to stop showing trending topics altogether as it causes more harm, especially during times like these when accurate and helpful information is important. Instead, we’re inundated with conspiracy theories, hate speech, and other manipulative information.
For its part, Twitter says that their algorithm will be able to identify tweets that are potentially abusive, spam or posted by “accounts trying to take advantage of our system”. These tweets will not be included in the representative tweet of a trend. Still some people are already calling for suspending Trending topics in the run-off to the U.S. presidential election as they believe this is something that can cause further misinformation and even real-life violence in the wake of various shooting incidents in the country.
For now though, this is the “solution” that Twitter is giving us. The explanations and pinned tweets to trends will be available in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, France, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. It’s only showing up for now on the Twitter mobile app but they”re working on bringing it to twitter.com soon.