A mysterious bug on Twitter yesterday caused searches for the #GamerGate hashtag to return results for “beach” and “wine,” rendering the hashtag effectively useless for a time. Twitter has yet to respond to our request for a comment on why this occurred.
For several hours, Twitter users searching for news about the year-and-a-half old controversy over poor journalistic standards and censorship in the world of video games were instead met with tweets about peoples’ beach holidays and, later, their drinking plans.
The bug was noticed shortly after a Breitbart Tech story highlighting Twitter’s rapid reinstatement of the account of Spencer Crittenden, a podcaster on Dan Harmon’s Harmontown, who’s account was suspended after repeatedly telling GamerGate supporters to kill themselves. The article drew attention to allegations of double standards between Twitter’s treatment of progressives and celebrities who violate the platform’s terms of service, and its treatment of ordinary and politically unfashionable users who do the same.
One of Twitter’s staff members, Ran Magen, came under fire from Twitter users and GamerGate supporters after promising to quickly “fix” the suspension of Crittenden. Magen switched his account to “private” shortly after the controversy began, which insulated him from the storm of criticism following Crittenden’s account being restored. Breitbart Tech’s article about the controversy led news results on the search page for the GamerGate hashtag shortly before the mysterious bug emerged.
The bug only appeared to affect GamerGate. There have been no reports of problems with any other hashtag. It also appears to be a relatively unheard-of bug in Twitter’s history. A search on StackOverFlow, one of the web’s leading tech support forums, reveals no previous complaints about Twitter searches returning the wrong results. Google searches also revealed no examples of this problem occuring before, on any other hashtag, or in any other Twitter search. The most common complaint about Twitter’s search function concerns its allegedly poor geolocation tracking, an entirely different problem.
We reached out to Twitter’s press team for a comment on the bug’s origins, but have yet to receive a response.