On Friday morning, the Twitter trending topic "Kill all Jews" appeared in many New Yorkers' local trending sections.
That phrase had been the subject of discussion following the vandalism of Union Temple, a Brooklyn synagogue that was set to host a political event with Broad City star Ilana Glazer on Thursday. The incident was heavily covered by local media, resulting in a number of stories featuring the anti-Semitic phrase that were then shared on Twitter.
Some Twitter users started to notice the trending topic on Friday morning and began wondering why the platform was promoting the hateful phrase, which was a violation of the social network's own rules. According to Twitter, it does not permit profanity or words that "incite hate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease" in its trending section. Topics are set by algorithms but can later be reviewed by human moderators.
"This phrase should not have appeared in trends, and we’re sorry for this mistake," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. "This was trending as a result of coverage and horrified reactions to the vandalism against a synagogue in New York. Regardless, it should not have appeared as a trend."
Twitter has removed the phrase as a trending topic, though it was up for at least 10 minutes for some users.
"Kill all Jews" was not among the number of racist epithets that were graffitied on the wall of the Brooklyn synagogue, but because of inaccurate news coverage alleging that it was, it became the driver of conversation on Twitter. The phrase is particularly sensitive given the mass shooting last week in which a man killed 11 people at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue.
The New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the Brooklyn synagogue incident.
In the last year, Twitter has announced an initiative to improve the "health" of its conversations, after years of criticism of how it handles abuse and harassment. Several prominent far-right personalities have been banned from Twitter in the last year, including Alex Jones and other Infowars personalities.
Recently, Twitter showed reporters at BuzzFeed News and other outlets some features it was considering testing to promote "healthy conversations." These were about encouraging more replies or active users, like a status message, rather than features aimed at curbing abuse.