This is a guest post by Megan O’Neil, resident web video expert and predictor of all things viral at our sister site SocialTimes.com.

Over the past week or so I’ve seen a picture of a dead baby, witnessed some full frontal nudity, and seen a snapshot of a mom feeding her baby while (**clears throat awkwardly**) giving her man “oral pleasure”. But the biggest surprise of all is that I didn’t find these pictures on some snuff or pornography site. I stumbled across them inadvertently while checking out the Trending Topics on Twitter.

That’s right. On Tuesday morning I woke up to see that ‘DEAD BABY’ was trending on Twitter. Now, I love dead baby jokes just as much as the next gal, so I clicked on it to see what it was all about. To my surprise, it wasn’t a dead baby joke at all. Rather, I was faced with a string of tweets leading to a family photograph in which the family is posing with what is allegedly a dead baby.

Debate about the picture, uploaded by @iDoItSoEZ and @whiteboytatted, spawned quite a bit of controversy early Tuesday morning. A lot of people thought that the photo was a hoax and that the baby was sleeping. Now people are saying that it is, indeed, real and that it was taken of the little baby girl that was killed by her father in Durham, North Carolina. Whether or not the picture is real hasn’t been officially confirmed, but either way should we be exposed to that sort of thing on Twitter, unsolicited? And first thing in the morning, no less?

Yesterday morning I got another shock, when I clicked to find out why ‘GREAT PARENT’ was trending. It was a snapshot taken in the mirror of a mom, fully naked, with her children taking a bath in the background, uploaded by @buffmonster. Last week a pretty graphic oral sex shot greeted me when I woke up as well, and those are just a few examples of the rude awakenings I’ve had from Twitter Trends.

There have also been cases of disrespectful phrases popping up in the trends and staying for hours at a time, as people retweet them in order to express their disgust. For instance, back in February @NerdatCoolTable tweeted out a Plixi pic of an African American toddler falling out of the back of a stroller to over 5,000 followers with the title ‘RIP Black Folks’. Enough people retweeted him that ‘RIP Black Folks’ started trending. It continued to trend as people tweeted out their disgust at the fact that ‘RIP Black Folks’ was trending.

As far as I know, Twitter doesn’t have any sort of screening process when it comes to what ends up on the Trending topics, aside from the algorithm that determines what people are tweeting about most. And Twitter does not claim responsibility for inappropriate content shared on the site, according to the Terms of Service.

But although Twitter excludes itself from responsibility for this content, should they be “promoting” it in their trending topics? I’m a little bit torn on this front. I will say that I do not support censorship and I do not think that people should be barred from posting their thoughts, ideas and creations. That being said, I don’t really appreciate waking up, heading to Twitter and finding myself face to face with pornography or morbidity first thing in the morning (or at any point during the day).

If everyone was Tweeting about a certain topic, like the fully nude ‘GREAT PARENT’, because they wanted to share it with their friends then that would be one thing. But when people are tweeting things like, “Why is GREAT PARENT trending?” or “Warning! Don’t click on the GREAT PARENT tweet…it’s disgusting!” then they are messing with the algorithm and, like in the case of RIP Black Folks, keeping topics trending that the majority of people don’t really want to see.

Perhaps it’s time for Twitter to start investing a little more time in monitoring their trending topics so I can enjoy my morning coffee along with some more morning-friendly tweets. But I guess that’s not really up to me to decide.

What do you think? Should Twitter be keeping a closer eye on their Trends or should all popular tweets make it in, dead babies and pornography included?

Image Credit: Whiskey Ninja Evil Twitter