#savetwitter: the power of rumours on social media

August 11 2016
Published in Trends

The #savetwitter hashtag was trending all day this Thursday, after a mysterious rumour started to spread that Twitter was going to shut down in 2017 due to excessive cyberbullying on the platform.

The story turned out to be fake, but not before the rumour had run wild for hours. Visibrain took a closer look at how the hashtag spread, and what happens when false information is left to spread unchecked on social media.

A rumour that stemmed from a glitch

So what started the rumour? The #savetwitter hashtag started rising at around 1.30 am on Thursday:

The first moments of #savetwitter

The phenomenon started in Brazil, after Twitter experienced temporary technical difficulties that displayed users as having 0 followers or retweets.

The first tweets using the hashtag were in portuguese, asking for Twitter to be saved, and joking about Twitter having been “kidnapped”:

Translation: “Twitter is being held captive”

However, it didn’t take long for the first tweets in English to start coming in:

From there, the rumour escalated, slowly transforming into the idea that Twitter was going to shut down. It’s possible that the rumour was started by some kind of “lost in translation” effect, combined with the recent #savemarinajoyce trend and the numerous issues that Twitter has had with cyberbullying in the past.

Twitter goes into meltdown

For a rumour that started in such a strange way, #savetwitter grew at almost frightening speed - proof of just how fast information can spread on social media. Within an hour and a half of the hashtag being used for the first time, over twenty thousand tweets had been posted.

It didn’t take long for panic to set in: Twitter was soon filled with people asking whether or not the rumours were true:

Others commented on how ridiculous the story was:

And there were even some pretty inventive conspiracy theories:

The number of tweets continued to rise, reaching a peak of 34,000 tweets per hour at 12 pm.

200,000 tweets and counting

The rumour was eventually debunked by The Independent:

However, that didn’t stop conversations around the hashtag. By 6pm, there had been 236,110 tweets about #savetwitter.

The total number of tweets for #savetwitter

The phenomenon went worldwide incredibly quickly, the main countries tweeting about #savetwitter being the United States, Brazil, the UK and Indonesia:

Savetwitter goes around the world in record time

The spread of the rumours could have been stopped at any moment by a simple statement from Twitter, yet the brand has still not tweeted any official statement.

All in all, #savetwitter was just a silly rumour, but for brands, it should serve as a stark reminder of just how fast information can spread on social media, whether it’s true or not.

This particular case has done no harm to Twitter, but malicious rumours, if allowed to spread unchecked, can destroy reputations. Brands need to keep a close eye on what is being said about them online, and be prepared to respond in order to disperse any potentially damaging heresay.

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Published in Trends