Donald Trump’s account appears at the top when people type the word ‘racist’ into Twitter’s search engine. The result of the algorithm threatens to sour further the strained relations between the platform and the U.S. President.
The British newspaper The Independent was the first to report the curious result of this search on Twitter on Wednesday. “If an account is regularly associated with certain terms, they can appear together in the recommendations through an algorithm,” explained a Twitter spokesperson.
While protests against racism and police brutality are taking place daily in countless American cities, Trump-Twitter relations have plummeted.
On May 26, the platform posted a fact check for the first time to a tweet from Trump. Three days later, Twitter posted to a tweet from the president stating that he had broken the rules on glorifying violence.
Trump, who has more than 80 million followers on Twitter, reacted furiously, signing a decree restricting the legal protection of social media over material on their sites.
The search result is not yet another episode in the open conflict between Trump and Twitter, says editor Greg Sterling of the specialized Search Engine Land site. According to him, it instead shows that “a large number of people use the words “racist” and “racism” to describe or answer the President,” or that there has been “a concerted effort” to “build Trump’s account with this associate terms”.
Twitter’s algorithm uses a lot of variables, which should protect the platform from allegations of manipulation. An only thorough analysis can shed light on the mechanisms Trump associates with racism, notes the University of Michigan’s Kjerstin Thorson.
“The platforms have put in a lot of effort to avoid giving the impression of being biased,” said the teacher, who specializes in the relationship between politics and social media.