Can an algorithm be wrong? Twitter Trends,…

Can an algorithm be wrong? Twitter Trends, the specter of censorship, and our faith in the algorithms around us

From the post:

The interesting question is not whether Twitter is censoring its Trends list. The interesting question is, what do we think the Trends list is, what it represents and how it works, that we can presume to hold it accountable when we think it is “wrong?” What are these algorithms, and what do we want them to be?

It’s not the first time it has been asked. Gilad Lotan at SocialFlow (and erstwhile Microsoft UX designer), spurred by questions raised by participants and supporters of the Occupy Wall Street protests, asks the question: is Twitter censoring its Trends list to exclude #occupywallstreet and #occupyboston? While the protest movement gains traction and media coverage, and participants, observers and critics turn to Twitter to discuss it, why are these widely-known hashtags not Trending? Why are they not Trending in the very cities where protests have occurred, including New York?

Careful analysis of the data indicates that Twitter is not censoring its Trends list. But I have heard people that I consider to be quite responsible argue to the contrary.

I raise this here as a caution against criticism of topic maps that don’t reflect what you think are undisputed “facts.” That you think some case to be true or that it must be true (in the case of political discussions) isn’t a sufficient basis for others to feel the same way. Nor does that mean their topic maps are “censoring” your view. Others have no obligation to advance your perspective.

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