Posted at 03:07 PM ET, 06/07/2011

#Rapistsongs: The worst Twitter trending topic you’ll ever see?


Twitter’s dark side: Trending topics along the lines of#rapistsongs. (KIMIHIRO HOSHINO - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Twitter is a powerful platform.

It’s so powerful that it can break news, get you fired or encourage a revolution half a world away. When the right people are behind them, tweets can do any of these in 140 characters or less.

And then there are the days that give the naysayers significant clout when they say, “Twitter makes you stupid.” The days when a hashtag like #rapistsongs tops the list of Trending Topics.

Just a few days after the debut of R&B singer Rihanna’s latest music video, in which her character shoots her rapist, Twitter users began jokingly contributing song titles rapists may enjoy.

“All R.Kelly Songs,” tweeted user Zay_Losco. “Lauryn Hill “Ready or Not,” tweeted Lyn_J.The responses almost exclusively cited works from the hip-hop community, with frequent references to artists Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Eminem and Kelly.

The references bring to mind a story from April, when actress Ashley Judd alleged in her memoir that hip-hop supports a rape culture. Judd’s statements were met with a viral backlash. As the lifestyle blog Madame Noir pointed out, jokes about rape on Twitter are nothing new, and they can sometimes attract high-profile users. Today, the son of actor Damon Wayans tweeted this to 56,000 followers:

It didn’t take long for other users to ask offended parties to notify Twitter’s support account:

Dear @support can you please monitor the abuse coming my way from people who support rape tweets... thank you. They are scum..less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

At midday, #rapistsongs was missing from Twitter’s Trending Topics, along with another misogynistic trend, #thingsfathoessay. But both are still drawing a healthy number of responses per minute.

It seems like conversations about rape and rape culture are hitting a fever pitch on the Web. Just yesterday, Jessica Valenti was on the Post site talking about SlutWalks, the movement sparked online by women wishing to speak out against rape. And today, a news story about the sexual assault dangers posed to female journalists abroad is circulated on the social web next to tweeted rape jokes.

However you feel about freedom of tweets, it brings about an interesting question: Should Twitter ever have a “kill switch”? This isn’t the first time Twitter has removed offensive topics — the site removed a few choice words from its front page in 2009 — but it has been awhile since something like this soared to the top of the mysterious list.

Should there be a Twitter kill switch, or is that censorship? Tell me on Twitter and I’ll post your responses here.

@katierogers No, I don't think Twitter should 'censor'. Trends shouldn't be edited, the 'raw data' is more accurate.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

By  |  03:07 PM ET, 06/07/2011

 
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