Had tweeted about this earlier today. Tons of queries followed. So, here’s some more context.
The standard operating procedure for any ‘gamed’ trend on Twitter involves a mail from an agency. Like this (source).
Then, an army tweets one or more of those tweets. Tada… trend happens!
I’m sure the fee is higher if the agency sends only the hashtag (and not sample/model tweets) and the ‘influencers’ have to ‘think up’ their own tweets. That involves thinking.
But, given that most trending hashtags are the former variety, why not use a really simple algorithm to either weed out such gamed trends or at least mark them more categorically?
That simple algorithm involves text comparison. Take a look at this screenshot, for instance.
Same text. Over and over again. It has happened with celebrities too (also see this article)! Any decent enough piece of algorithm can detect similarity in text to a precise percentage. In this case, they match 100%. (Remember, text matching algorithms are already used to detect online plagiarism!)
Imagine, tweaking it to include 70-80-90% matches and put them in a sandbox. Then, once confirmed that it ‘seems’ gamed, put them in a separately called out trends sidebar, instead of clubbing them with organically trending items and polluting the whole thing.
How difficult is this, for Twitter?
Rather, more people seemed to be interested in, ‘Why should Twitter do this?’ when I posed the question in the morning.
In case of gamed tweets, the agency, acting as a middleman for a brand, an actor or a political party’s promotion team makes money (bankrolled by the brand or the actor’s/political party’s team). Twitter does not make money.
If gamed trends are called out, it’d at least get brands to seek agencies help to avoid that shameful list (amounts to saying, ‘Yes, we’re cheap enough to game trends and find ourselves in the news somehow’) and reach Twitter to opt for the ‘Promoted trends’ product (which is completely above board since it is marked specifically).
Will it impact Monthly Active Users (MAU), the holy grail of all social platforms? Possibly, because this would force ‘influencers’ to think something on their own to tweet and that’s too much effort for Rs.150 and they may drop off the platform.
Google, which does not operate under the MAU threat actively penalizes and weeds out websites that post repetitive, pointless content to keep its search credible (without which people won’t use it). Twitter, at least to maintain the sanctity of its platforms collective outcome (trends), could consider doing this. After all, if it becomes public knowledge that it is easy and far cheaper to game the trends (as against opting for an official product to stay on top of trends), more agencies may encourage this short-cut to brands. More brands indulging in this leads to people shunning the platform for lack of credibility and fostering the sham by not doing anything.