The recent Israeli attack on a flotilla of aid-worker ships in Gaza prompted a huge response on Twitter, but many users are now accusing the social media website of censoring material relating to the event.
Users began using the hashtag #flotilla with their reports and comments about the Gaza incident, which allows others to sort and search through results based on the topic, similar to other forms of web tagging. However, it was reported that at around 11am GMT the popular hashtag stopped working, resulting in numerous Twitter errors.
This could have simply been a case of Twitter not being able to handle the sheer volume of people using the hashtag, or it could have been an anti-spam system that kicked in automatically based on the number of uses within a short time frame. A large number of people do not accept either of these possibilities, however, and have accused Twitter of censorship.
Many of these users are now using a new hashtag, #freedomflotilla, which has remained in operation despite it trending in the same way the #flotilla one did earlier today. We tested the hashtags and found that #flotilla was periodically not working, but the others worked fine.
New reports have revealed that even the #gaza and #israel hashtags went down for a period of time, but both are now working again. It may be a case that they are only going down at peak periods of usage when the servers cannot handle the load. It may also be that the problem is not the hashtags themselves, but rather the search engine which is trying to handle the large volumes.
This may be a simple case of overload, but many Twitter users are asking the question if Twitter is as impartial as it should be in situations like the one that has arisen today.
Update: We have talked to Twitter and the company assures us that it was just a technical bug. Of course, the determined may read into that what they will. Twitter told TechEye: “There was a technical issue that caused search errors for a short period of time this weekend. Twitter facilitates the open exchange of information and opinions worldwide so when that is hampered for any amount of time by a bug, we take it very seriously.”