Since the WikiLeaks cable dump and subsequent sex scandal broke, there have been a few conspiracy theorists that claim Twitter has been “censoring” terms associated with WikiLeaks from its “Trending” list.
The theory is not without warrant, considering the international saga involving Julian Assange and his “sex crime” case. On Monday morning, roughly 1 percent of all tweets made mention of “WikiLeaks,” according to Buzzfeed.
So why has it been absent from Twitter’s Trending list for more than a week?
According to Buzzfeed (and confirmed in a tweet from Twitter), the algorithm used to identify “trends” only accounts for “peaks,” rather than the overall volume – the method it once employed.
Why did they change it? Two words: Justin Bieber.
“Twitter used to rank topic popularity by volume,” Buzzfeed reports, “but changed the algorithm after Bieber’s fanbase continued to account for roughly 3 percent of all tweets in the Spring of 2010.”
WikiLeaks spiked enough to show up on Twitter trends on November 28 – the day that Assange and company coordinated a leak of more than a quarter-million American diplomatic "cables,” sparking outrage from U.S. and European governments.
Since then, though, the chatter on WikiLeaks has been constant but steady, just like Justin Bieber.
“Twitter is not censoring #wikileaks or related terms from the Trends list of trending topics,” Twitter wrote on its official Twitter feed, pointing followers to the Buzzfeed piece.
If Assange is extradited next week, though, I’m guessing we’ll see a big enough spike to get WikiLeaks back into the top ten.
Click on Buzzfeed's chart to enlarge: