Some Twitter users noticed Wednesday that the social media platform automatically associates the phrase “Enemy of the People” with the official New York Times Twitter account, a seemingly strange phenomenon that’s fanning the flames of speculation in the current overheated political climate.
In fact, Twitter is not just associating “Enemy of the People” with the 168-year-old newspaper. Typing “Friend of the People” will also trigger as a suggestion to tag the @NYTimes account. As will simply typing the word “People” – so long as the P is uppercase.
So what’s going on?
It’s not entirely clear yet and Twitter has not responded to comments from Business Insider seeking an explanation.
But there are some potential explanations, most of which are more about the problems with algorithms than overt political bias.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly used that phrase “Enemy of the People” to attack the Times and the media at large, prompting many other users to do the same when tagging news outlets like the New York Times and CNN in their tweets.
It’s possible that Twitter’s algorithms have inferred a connection with the word “people” and the New York Times, prompting Twitter to auto-suggest the newspaper whenever the word is typed into a tweet. Remember, as it stands, any tweet that includes the word “people” will recommend the New York Times tag.
The connection was first noticed by Washington Post editor Jacob Brogan, and other Twitter users noticed the broader association between the word People and the New York Times.
It’s also worth noting that the recommendation only seems to pop up when accessing Twitter on desktop browsers; the mobile app and desktop programs like TweetDeck do not appear to share the issue. For those using their browser, the recommendation will appear regardless of whether or not you follow The New York Times on Twitter.
We’ll update the story with more information as soon as we hear more from Twitter.
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