The mystery of the disappearing #flotilla on Twitter [Updated]

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As we know from breaking news right now over 10 people have died after Israeli commandos boarded a convoy of ships carrying aid to Gaza, sparking an international controversy. But we’re not going to get into the politics of that situation. What we’re interested in is what happened on Twitter today. Because although the convoy has been dubbed a “flotilla” by Twitter users and a large number of people were using the #flotilla hashtag, this disappeared from after trending briefly. The only remaining related trend topic was Israil, the Turkish word for Israel. [See below for the latest update on this].

As a result, a large number of of people are calling out Twitter for “censoring” the #flotilla hashtag.

In addition #flotilla was not appearing on Twitter’s trending list despite the fact that it is pretty prominent on Google trends. It’s causing a huge wave of controversy right now.

So what can be found out about what happened to the #flotilla hashtag?

We’ve emailed Twitter’s PR people to get a response but they are in the US and likely asleep right now. It’s also a public holiday there.

But given that censorship of popular hashtags is not in Twitter’s DNA, we’ve been looking into why the hashtag disappeared off search.

First of all, we doubt it’s because @flotilla is a twitter account attached to an “indie/classical melodic rock band from Montreal”.

So the most likely explanation is that Twitter’s recently updated trending topics algorithm mistakes #gaza and #flotilla for older news unrelated to current events.

Thus, current events have overtaken the hashtag and mistakenly marked it as hashtag spam. Since Twitter support staff are on a skeleton crew during these hours, the algorithm has no doubt not been updated to take account of breaking news yet.

At least, that’s the way the theory goes – but we’ll update this post when we get a response from Twitter.

Meanwhile, we’d appreciate it if you kept your comments to the Twitter aspect of this story as this is a tech blog, many thanks.

UPDATE: A couple of hours after this was posted it became clear Twitter users had switched to different terms, namely “Gaza flotilla” and #freedomflotilla which are working and trending just fine, so there is clearly no “censorship” going on. As we say, it may well have been down to technical problems with the original hashtags people were using.

UPDATE 2: Twitter has just got back to us with this statement: “We are investigating a technical issue that caused search errors for a short period of time this morning. 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.”

  • hassan
  • gee

    well .. some tweeps here thought that there’s some kind of conspiracy among twitter and Israeli ..

    I think that this is a better explanation for it ..

  • gregorylent

    right or wrong, i have added twitter to the list of services i don’t trust ..

    • rick

      LOL at not trusting twitter. It’s plain and simple a mistake was made in their algorithm and trend pick up strategy, it is by no means a conspiracy. Get your shit straight.

      • usman

        many times videos on youtube had either been removed or view counts changed by mouse looking jews. the media attention that uselss shit twitter gets indicated mices are also behind twitter in their sorry dream of manipulating humanity

  • Ali

    then why searches on #fiotilla and #gaza are blocked ?!!

  • John Dean

    Your explanation and reasoning itself seems flawed.

    Not appearing as a trending topic since the hashtag is being flagged as “old news” seems like a flawed conclusion.

    Isn’t the logic twitter uses based on real-time results taking into consideration the time the hashtag is created & the # of users using that # tag?

  • Ali
    • Mike Butcher

      Looks ok from me (in Berlin right now)

    • sharaff

      even searching the visible trend topic on twitter #israil shows up error page.
      Search using Tweetie or TweetDeck it shows up. This shows the trending topics

  • James

    Your hypothysis only accounts for why the term is not trending, it does not account for the fact that we are unable to search for the word “flotilla”.

  • All Around the World News

    The mystery of the disappearing #flotilla on Twitter…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  • Firat Demirel

    If its all about being a user for Flotilla, what about israil, israel or istanbul?

    Also while Twitter works for spam really good, how they thought only flotilla is a spam?

  • twt9

    A whole coverage of this issue available here:

  • Fayez

    Such BS! Gaza as old news? and that is OK?

    John Dean is more eloquent am too furious.

    Somebody put flotilla as a stop word in the crawlers. This is a decision that cannot be made by mistake.

    Twitter f’ed up big time. Lost credibility.

  • Malek won’t load a search result page
    same for

    so, even if the trending topic algorithm didn’t do its job, why the hell is search ignoring those hashtags ?

    come on. There’s dirty political funds backing Twitter.
    That’s the sensible explanation.

  • imran

    since when TC became the PR company for Twitter, only reason I can see that is, Arrignton is a Jew who is trying to cover up this hypocrisy for the sake of Jewish brotherhood. correct me from Wrong Twitter found Ev is another Jew ? I am not being racial in any way I am just exposing the hypocrisy of Twitter. We don’t see this ‘mistake’ in the case of #iranelection hasghtag ?

    • John Dean

      For those here who should start from fact on the men behind Twitter, encourage you research before making unfounded statements.

      Search for Flotilla & Israel are not appearing from Indonesia using Twitter search, 3rd party apps work.

      I have been a Twitter fan since beta for and I do sense a filter has been intentionally applied, reasons we can all guess at but should wait for Twitter to share their position. Twitters response will guide my decision to either continue to use their service or no longer use their service.

      Twitter is not the 1st company to self censorship, just turn on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. how many of these networks are covering this story impartially?

    • Mike Butcher

      Sure, and I am the man in the moon.

    • Ariel

      As a guy from israel I sure hope so that twitter blocked this vicious propaganda against us which pretends to be a peace convoy! Israel allows every day 20K TONS of supply into gaza, what is the purpose of these ships was in the first place rather than making a provocation?! Thos commando soliders were attacked before firing a single shot and were equipped with only pistols and not even guns.
      Other than this, you are welcomed not to use any jewish backed and led services and that includes google, facebook, twitter, Microsoft, bloomberg …. it will take me too long, switch to the turkish technology aided services, if you can find any!
      But let’s not go into politics right?

      • imran

        Thanks for confirming my point and show us your true colors, why don’t the World just stop using Arab countries Oil *wink*

      • Ariel

        In 50 years the world will have no choice but to stop using oil, and it’s not like apac is giving it away for free… you are welcomed to check out in the meanwhile some electric cars startups like and other renewable energy companies from israel like solel (now part of siemens) and solaredge (the world leader in the field). As for oil embargo, we’ve been through that already, and we can take ours from other countries which can export other things than oil which was found by english experts *wink* *wink*
        Meanwhile your point was, and remained that you have an issue with “jews”

      • Adnan Siddiqi

        Hi Ariel

        Thanks for giving an honest response. Yes you people have taken over the technology thus you got right to manipulate it according to your will. I wonder whether stupid Rabis also told that by doing all such things they can stop Islam too? If yes then your Rabbis re just fooling you guys around.

        And thanks for giving a technological slap. Being a software engineer myself I do feel that heavy dependence on Israal based systems will be very costly for us(Muslims) not for Islam anyway. Tere might not be a Muslim version of Facebook,twitter or Microsoft but could be while several Muslims have took part in the mentioned companies

        Once again thanks for your honest feedback

      • Ariel

        My feedback is honest and to the point, and I have no problem with you and your nation or religion, you are welcomed over here to see how Muslims live and work and of course freely exercise their prayers in mosques, a thing which isnt so equivalent to jewish people living in countries Iran, Iraq, or even Egypt which we have a peace agreement with, but what the hack, we don’t make a fuss out of it.
        But there is one thing I do wish to point out, and that is it happens to be so interesting that while jewish people have voices from all political spectrum, some how Muslims from Afghanistan or central London have the same voice and that is that Israel must be wiped out. Interesting, I haven’t spoken with a Rabbi since my Bar Mitzva 15 years ago, but I am sure your preachers & Sheikh’s do a better job than ours every friday…

      • Jack

        Have you seen the pictures ? If those are not guns, then pistols must mean something else to you.

      • Ariel

        Oh i have seen my friend, and you are welcomed to see them and share (i know you wont) which show w/o doubt that these “”””peace activists””” attacked the soliders with intention to KILL

        -please make sure you log in first, the pictures are not so “peaceful” for under 18ers

      • yo fanny

        exhibit a: map showing that this all took place in international waters, which is essentially is a declaration of war since it was a ship flying the flags of 3 countries.

        That all said, do you remember the video from last summer where Max Blumenthal interviewed a bunch of Jewish youth in Israel who said some horrendous things and let the world know what they really felt.

        First, the search results were skewed where it was buried. Then it was removed. Here’s the follow-up he did last year.

        Now don’t insult the intelligence of people by pretending that censorship doesn’t take place. I’m an American, I love this country more than anything else, but it is a crying shame that we have handed the foreign policy of this government over to Israel and the Jewish lobby. Being Jewish and Pro-American are not mutually exclusive, but when the interests of this country take a back seat to the interests of Israel, then those people need to be charged with treason.

        The aid to Israel needs to stop now. And the same goes for the equally abhorrent aid we give to Egypt.

      • Slingshot

        As an american involved in politics – I can say with confidence that the USA has NEVER acted in favor of Israel and not in its own interests. All pro Israel policies and actions are clearly for USA interests alone. The reason that some Israelis feel contempt for Obama is because recently Obama has felt that the interests of Israel are not not USA interests now. And Israelis disagree. It has never been in USA interest to create another Islamic terrorist state in the Middle East – like Syria. And that is what the Palestinians are. And USA is interested in USA, which is more countries like Israel and less countries like Syria. Simple

      • yo fanny


        With a level of ignorance bordering on an adolescent gerbil, you have no place in politics. It is your breed of ignorance that has put this country in peril.

        Please refer to this paper to begin your path towards enlightenment.

      • usman

        Ariel I just hope you Jews are not thinking that you are feeding the whole world population and giving them life. For a proof i can say fuck you all and you all Jews look like mouse and your life on earth is miserable will be miserable and have been miserable. You think world depend on your microsoft, google, cnn, fox, twitter facebook or its other way around and you depend on these tools for your survival? I challenge you to stop these businesses and services for one day and see if the world will die down without using services of you mouses.

      • usman

        The fact i can say fuck you all mouse looking jews is a proof you have no control on me, and i am way more happy than you fucks. Come on, if you have control on microsoft, cnn, google, facebook, coke and twitter, dare to stop operation of these companies for even a month? You will all fucking starve. These thingies are your need for survival and humans can shit on them any day and stop using them any day. Your pipe dream of controlling world will never be successful because humans have ability to be free and specially cannot be controlled by some mouse looking phsycos.

      • usman

        I wish you dont think its fucking Israelis jews who are converting the seeds into fruits and vegetables that is feeding the world. You fucks are just spoiling humans. Feeling like God? Try put your head in a basin full of water in your bathroom, or try not to drink water for a day. You will know your worth.

  • sharaff the banned hashtags show up. Use third party apps to search for #flotilla it shows up.
    You said the trending topic #israil shows up on but when you search it on the site it shows an error page.

  • jaz

    Twitter has censored trending topics in the past. They removed #luciferiscoming and a few other tags associated with the TV series Supernatural ( just fans celebrating the season premier) after Sean P ‘Diddy Dumb’ Combs thought satanists had taken over twitter and called his 2M+ followers to start tweeting with #godishere. An virtual war broke out and Twitter has since then blocked anything related to Supernatural.

  • Alex Graham

    I blame Justin Bieber, Twitter users like him forced an algorithm change to stop the insane number of tweets from his followers.

  • Simon

    Both topics return search results here in Australia.
    Are they still not working for everyone else?

    • Pidjay

      It’s working well in South Korea too.

  • Salma

    Dont know if it was censored for a while or not but just did a search and #freedomflotilla, Gaza flotilla and İsrail are all trending topics on twitter right now

    Could it be that the censorship is/was being applied based on location?

  • leod87

    I think there really is a simple explanation for #flotilla disappearing. The last three days have witnessed the re-enactment of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in 1940 by a #flotilla of little ships.
    The re-enactment ended yesterday afternoon.

  • Mel

    “Imran” the balanced non-racist:
    “He’s a Jew”, “He’s a Jew”, “That one acts for the sake of Jewish brotherhood”, “I am not being racial in any way”.


    Someone needs to read this:

    • imran

      My apology for that, However isn’t the freedom of speech mask just splits apart today on Twitter. Every troll in the world, Every spammer in the world, used the #iranelection tag but still they didn’t censor it and all of their antilogarithm failed to detect it and today one is telling me it’s just a ‘mere’ mistake.

      • Mark

        oh no… you didn’t notice you were a cheeky raciest?! you dont say… sorry, guessing the Muslim in you can overcome the human within you.
        Ooops sorry! i didn’t mean to be raciest, i was just being a JEW.

      • usman

        A person is racist if he does something. Now you are equating two people: a person burning jews in camps with gas and a person saying why #flotilla was removed from twitter. I hope you manipulating mouse shit face will understand.

      • Arik

        Isn’t michael arrington a jew?

  • Ban

    Thanks for offering this theory as a possible explanation. However, I fail to believe that an advanced, high-tech team like Twitter simply forgot to take into consideration the old-news-not-related-to-current-events factor in their trending topics. It also seems to be too much of a coincidence that both #gaza and #flotilla went MIA from Twitter’s trending topics on the same day. I’m not a fan of conspiracies, I prefer logic, but maybe a more elaborate response on this might help.

  • Selim
  • Mel

    leod87 – a calmer head. Thank you for actually looking for a likely cause not linked to a racist stereotype. That BBC story uses the word flotilla 3 times and clearly that has been a story over the last few days.

  • Selim
  • Fayez

    On location based censorship (can I claim dibs on the acronym LBC =) )

    Tweeting #flotilla was very heavy since GMT+4 and only recently activists switched to #freedflotilla and for many hours only Twitter was not showing flotilla while other tools like trendistic had a different story to tell.

    Search engines have a capability to block words and its usually used to stop indexing of words like prepositions, definite an indefinite articles, and I think somebody added #flotilla.

    If I were Twitter and if Twitter were to care, the log to that function is what should be inspected first.

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