Amongst the #goldrush for Team GB in Rio, something altogether more disturbing was trending on Twitter last week. Out of nowhere and with impressive speed, the hashtag #savetwitter began to pick up steam from Wednesday onwards. Users began to sweat, media outlets were alerted, and by Thursday PM, rumours began to circulate that the social network, adored by over 320 million people around the world, was in danger of being shut down in 2017.
However, fear not: Twitter HQ assured the world that there was categorically no truth in the story, and that the site would definitely not be closing down. So where did the #savetwitter hoax come from, and how were so many users taken in?
It appears that the hashtag was first used on Tuesday after a internet blip saw the followers of each user’s Twitter account deleted temporarily. Those logging on in the early hours of Tuesday morning would have seen their followers and likes reduced to a frankly terrifying 0, enough for one user to declare that Twitter was in dire need of saving, and starting the snowball with the now infamous hashtag. From here, it didn’t take long for the story to generate likes and retweets.
Soon, a known internet hoaxer and YouTuber was suggesting that he had brought about the imminent closure of Twitter by convincing HQ that cyber bullying, online abuse, and radicalisation was rife and unstoppable on the site. Within the space of a day, #savetwitter was one of the top worldwide trends, with opinion split between those who seemed pleased to see the end of the social network, and those who were actually terrified at the prospect.
Since Thursday, Twitter have been at pains to emphasise that their site is in no danger of closure and users can breathe a sigh of relief. If there’s one thing #savetwitter has shown us, though, it’s the speed at which a rumour, post or news story can gather pace, reaching millions in a matter of hours. Now that is the power of Twitter.