If you’ve been on Twitter at all these past couple of weeks, you will doubtless have noticed #CameronMustGo trending somewhere around the top of the dashboard. What began as an idea by two twitter users very quickly escalated into a hashtag that lasted nearly two weeks. Now, cynical as I am about Twitterstorms and the impact of hashtags, I have to hand it to them that that is rather an impressive feat. However, two days ago, the unthinkable happened: #CameronMustGo stopped trending.
The response was immediate. ‘TWITTER BLOCK FREE SPEECH!?’, ‘LOOKS LIKE #CAMERONMUSTGO HAS BEEN CENSORED’, ‘NEED A NEW HASHTAG NOW TWITTER HAVE BLOCKED IT?’. I even saw one bold user venture, ‘I’m not sure if Tory MPs or Right-wing press would be bold enough to try this. MI6??’ That’s right. Battles with ISIS in Iraq, the CIA releasing a highly damaging report on torture, and MI6 are concerned with stopping a hashtag which has made ermm … well, little real impact at best. Obviously, it has not been blocked. The idea that some billionaires sitting in Silicon Valley would care at all about shutting down a UK hashtag is laughable, and the idea that David Cameron would risk being seen to stamp on free speech to stop a hashtag which has made ermm … well, little real impact at best, is even more laughable. No, the reason for its disappearance is very simple. Twitter programmed the trending algorithm so only tweets which show a sudden spike relative to how long they have been trending/if they have trended at all will be shown. This is why we are treated to trends like #ARSvBIR when there is a football match and #StereoKicksOut when XFactor is on, and we don’t just constantly have #1DFansUnite and Zoella as the top trends.
Phew, so the dark forces of censorship aren’t out for #CameronMustGo, time to call it a day then? Well, no, the farce only continued. Another prominent Twitter user suggested using #CameronOut instead, as this would trend for as long if it got the same interest. A fair suggestion if you believe in this method of online activism surely? This is where it gets good. The two twitter users who began #CameronMustGo started a counter campaign to stop people using #CameronOut. They claim this ‘dilutes the original’ and means it won’t trend (which it won’t anyway) and, #CameronMustGo is still a great place to collect the data (whatever that means). Another claim is that #CameronMustGo is, ‘still trending elsewhere’.
Right. This last argument is absurd. As anyone who knows anything about social media will tell you, it is flippant and ephemeral, and a hashtag which yesterday had Twitter acting like an individual was as abhorrent as Fred West and the living embodiment of everything wrong with society itself will be gone tomorrow and basically forgotten (see Emily Thornberry, Dapper Laughs, Michael Fabricant, Lord Freud etc.) So yes, #CameronMustGo is still trending on sites that monitor total tweets, but no one goes on them apart from people who want to measure hashtags they’re interested in. It isn’t reaching a large audience at all. In Twitter terms, #CameronMustGo is completely dead.
And this brings me to my final point. Good. Whilst it was impressive at the start and did show there is palpable anger, the hashtag descended into memes displaying complete falsehoods, grotesque, poorly-made photoshops with lurid green and purple text that looked like they belong on MSPaint and absurdly bad taste photoshops with Tory Ministers as Nazi officers and Hitler himself. Despite the bold claims that the hashtag ‘gave people information’ or ‘collected the ammunition in one place’ in reality it just made the left on Twitter look an like ill-informed, spiteful, unprofessional mob. I am sure that for every one person who clicked on it and went ‘Interesting’, 100 went ‘Fuck me, what nutters’.
The fact is, the majority of people who use or view political hashtags either strongly agree with them or strongly disagree. If the creators of #CameronMustGo really want to make a positive change, they should now accept the hashtag is dead in the water and in risk of becoming a laughing stock and annoyance, and call on people to go out and campaign for Labour on the streets and on the telephones, rather than reaching for the next hilarious ‘IDS as Goering’ meme.