UPDATE, 9:30pm EST: #Thatsafrican is no longer a trend. Was it taken down by Twitter?
Oh man, this won't end well at all. Just as Twitter began to show the world how important the new medium can be, beating back claims that the tiny technology had already jumped the shark, somebody's got to go rain on their parade.
For those of you who closely monitor Twitter trends, you already know what I'm talking about, but for the other 99.99% of the population, here's the deal:
In recent days there've been a spate of user-participatory hashtag memes popping up on Twitter such as #nicerfilmtitles, in which thousands of people attempted to rewrite movie titles in a, well, nicer way. These were fun exercises in brainpower and cleverness and played up the lighter-side of a technology that has, as of late, been stuck in the deep, dark bowels of Iran.
How is this a problem? It's not. Or wasn't, until sometime today when the term #thatsafrican became a trending topic on Twitter.
The debate is already raging over the appropriateness of the trend. Is it self-deprecating humor? A cover for racists? Something only Africans and African-Americans can joke about? Something no one should be talking about?
What's more, it brings into question the role of free speech on Twitter and the company's role as moderator, or lack thereof. If a popular trend on Twitter is deemed racist, what action is required on the part of the company?
With the situation in Iran showing the extreme positives of Twitter and free speech, it will be interesting to see if #thatsafrican or another controversial trend will end up exemplifying the negatives.
Follow David Weiner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/daweiner