Twitter censors Moonfruit? What does it mean for the future of Twitocracy?

moonfruit socialmedia twitter censorship

A Moonfruit Twitter contest had users pushing their creativity on Twitter to win a new MacBook Pro, but 10 days later it disappeared from trending topics. Moonfruit co-founder Wendy Tan White gives her view on when social media campaigns take an unexpected turn…

Late Friday night 3rd July, around midnight UK time Moonfruit finally tumbled off the top of the trends list on Twitter. Now this wasn’t wholly unexpected with July 4th on the way and the resignation of Sarah Palin. But what was odd is how it that it never returned despite the stats being above other trending topics. If you compare Moonfruit vs Wimbledon in terms of share of tweets (see graph below), you can see Moonfruit has ranked higher at all times except the Men’s final. But Wimbledon has been a trending topic several times over the weekend. I’ve also included data for Serena and Venus which have also been on the top trends list.

There is further data available at which shows popular hashtag topics. So on balance it looks like the Moonfruit tag has been removed from the trends list by Twitter.

We also sent an email to Twitter on Saturday asking them about this, but have yet to get a reply. It may be because it’s been the 4th July weekend, so we’ll wait and see but given the profile of this story and the furore in the twittersphere we would expect them to respond?

What does this mean?

Ok, first things first. When we started this we wanted to create a buzz there’s no doubt about that. But we didn’t expect the campaign to become so large. And believe it or not, we didn’t want to dominate Twitter for 10 days, or push important subjects like Iran off the agenda.

But given how it has turned out we are also touched by how people have responded to the brand and campaign. We love how they’ve questioned it, played with it, joked about it, sung about it, painted it, made it out of fruit, shouted at it and made it what it is through their participation. We are in awe of the brilliance and creativity of the Twittersphere. So thank you all.

However, we also recognise that the campaign sets a dangerous precedent and could have implications for how Twitter is used and abused by marketers. This is a subject much commented on (see Mashable, Techcrunch, BBC), etc.

So if Twitter had come to us and said, “guys, enough is enough”, then we would have worked with them to limit the campaign, or complied with whatever they were demanding. However, if they have pulled the trending without explanation or communication, this sets rather a different tone.

Not to be misinterpreted, it’s certainly their right to protect their network and technology investment. (And incidentally, I think taking us off the trends at this point is the right thing for Twitter, and I’m happy with that response). But as a company that strives to provide a real time, democratic communication platform, we don’t believe taking action quietly behind the scenes is the right answer, not exactly transparent. Particularly given the numbers of press, marketers, businesses and consumers on twitter following this campaign right now.

I’ve said it before in comments on other blogs, but this is probably a commercial channel for Twitter in the future (I’m sure they’ve thought about it! Maybe we’ve touched a nerve.) Perhaps there should be ‘commercial trends’ vs ‘normal trends’ lists. And its certainly been said that users should be able to filter their feeds to remove ‘commercial’ or unwanted tags.

What would help me is a clear understanding of what happened, and therefore what the new ‘rules of the game’ are going forward. What does this mean for topics on Twitter? What does it mean for marketers? If we were removed as ‘spam’, when did we become spam, was it ok for the first few days, just not after? And are the creative responses, videos, images, songs, etc. all just spam? (see ‘Real people get creative with Moonfruit’).

Two oil paintings of Moonfruit? A woman paper-maching her face to look like a moon (while eating fruit)? A ransom letter to Moonfruit demanding a Mac? A man making his lunch zuchinni into the words ‘Moonfruit’? Writing songs and penning Haiku’s? Teenagers dancing and producing films? Is this spam?

Maybe there’s no right answer, ultimately only what the twitter crowd agree. Perhaps if they had been given a bit longer they would have decided for themselves. That’s the intention surely of ‘follow’ and ‘unfollow’.

What does the Twitterverse think?

Twitter, what happened?

Important Update – Big Bang Finale!

The competition response has been crazy and wonderful. Thank you all. But to bring the mayhem to a close and remain respectful to the Twitterverse, we’ve decided to bring forward the end date from Friday 10th July to Tuesday 7th July (e.g. this week).

This means all remaining Macbook Pros will be given away on this last day. Still 10 Macbooks, just in 7 days not 10. So there will be 4 winners on Tuesday for Macbook prizes 7, 8, 9 and 10. All will be randomly picked from the last 24 hour of tweets.

We’ll still take creative entries for discretionary prizes, so send them to us @moontweet.

And we’re looking at how we can have an ongoing competition for our customers who built the best new sites each month.

Once again, thank you all for your input, creativity, love and humour (and humor ;-). Best of luck!!

Wendy Tan White




Rebecca Stevens
Freelance Writer. Likes films, food, and funnies.

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