I’ve addressed this before, in connection to the Wikileaks trending topics controversy (and previously in connection to #demo2010), but it’s always been tucked away as part of a longer post, so it’s been easy to miss. And it keeps coming up, so here goes:

Twitter has no policy against allowing usernames to trend on its Trending Topics list. Twitter usernames trend all the time.

Right now, as I write this, seven of Twitter’s global trending topics — dbsk, BEPE, Varanaski, alliwant, lemmeguess,Suyono, and Cassiopeia — are single words. Each of those seven words are also usernames. Some are long-established (@cassiopeia has tweeted more than 3400 times and has nearly 400 followers) and some are brand new (@lemmeguess has never tweeted and is following only four people), but all of them exist.

And if you think about it, this makes sense. If Twitter had a “no usernames as trending topics” policy, any of us could prevent any word from trending just by registering it as a username. The whole system would fall apart.

It’s true that really popular usernames tend not to trend, but that’s a function of Twitter’s trending topics algorithm rather than policy. As I’ve discussed in previous posts on the trending topics phenomenon, Twitter’s trend lists favor novel words and phrases, so even when chatter about Lady Gaga spikes, ladygaga (7,287,164 Twitter followers at last count) is unlikely to hit the trending topic lists. We’re always talking about @ladygaga.