Earlier today, visitors to Twitter‘s homepage were greeted by something curious: Amid the array of trending items sat a tweet from the Dallas Police Department, which wrongfully named an innocent man as a suspect in the attack that killed five police officers last night. Mark Hughes, the man in the photo, was questioned and released by police after the shooting. But he is reportedly still receiving thousands of death threats.
Since Twitter’s homepage automatically surfaces tweets that are popular–apparently without human intervention–the tweet wound up there without any context or clarification.
After receiving a barrage of complaints and reports (including an inquiry from Fast Company over email), Twitter manually pulled the tweet from its homepage. About an hour later, @DallasPD’s tweet was removed. It’s not clear whether the Dallas Police Department, which previously refused to remove the tweet, deleted it or if it was reported widely enough to get flagged. What is clear is that in times of crisis, leaving the algorithms to curate information for us isn’t always the best approach. JPT