After pastors in Houston dared to exercise their first amendment rights to speak out against same-sex marriage laws, they were issued subpoenas by the city. In response, a faith-based organization launched a petition, demanding that the city end its bullying against those who were doing nothing more than acting on their rights to free speech and freedom of religion (see the First Amendment).
To spread the word, the hashtag #HoustonWeHaveAProblem was launched, which was met with a less than desirable response from Twitter.
— Jose Galvan (@Jose_Galvan) October 15, 2014
Individuals responded with tweets to let everyone know the issue and @FaithDrivenConsumer called on others to help lift the block:
— FaithDrivenConsumer (@FaithConsumer) October 15, 2014
On Tuesday, in an email to the Daily Signal, a Twitter spokesman for Twitter explained:
“The URL HoustonProblem.com was mistakenly flagged as spam last week, by an outside organization that tracks spam sources. We quickly restored access and apologize for the error.”
Coincidence? You may remember that Twitter users encountered similar blocks while trying to utilize the hashtag #IStandWithPhil to petition for Phil Robertson's right to express his beliefs on the traditional Christian view of marriage and family. An executive director at Faith Driven Consumer, Matthew Faraci, admitted to The Daily Signal that while it is possible that both campaigns were blocked due to “technical reasons,” it looks suspicious.
We saw this during #IStandWithPhil, this happened to [former Arkansas] Gov. Mike Huckabee, and we know this also happened to [actor] Kirk Cameron, so fundamentally, someone needs to ask the question: Why is there a repeated pattern of behavior here?
Once Twitter fixed the “technical problem,” the hashtag went back to leading people to the petition, which has now received over 10,000 signatures. Faraci suggested that it is possible that in blocking the petition, Twitter made the petition supporters more passionate and determined to get it signed. In addition, Faraci believes that the public deserves (and needs) more transparency from Twitter and other social media giants.
In an era where transparency is the expectation, we encourage Twitter and other social media sites to be very open about how this whole process works in order to reassure the public that there is fair and equal treatment for people of all perspectives.
Twitter has not responded to any follow-up questions regarding the number of websites it normally flags as spam on a daily basis. Faraci made an excellent point in asking:
Has a similar effort from an opposing viewpoint been blocked? We challenge you to find such an example.
If Twitter wants to take sides, they should understand the issue at stake. The “Houston Problem” wasn’t a case of bickering political parties: it was an assault on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Twitter's entire existence is built on the assumption of free speech and should take a hard look at those “technical issues.”