A Blog of Reason From a Godless Liberal

Twitter’s Free Speech Fail

In atheism, Culture Wars, editorial, religion on October 21, 2009 at 4:01 am

Today was a very interesting day in the Twitterverse.

This morning, Reverend Run (of RUN DMC) tweeted, “Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace.”. This clever use of words (as it often does) got theists all excited and they started obsessively retweeting the tired cliché. Expectedly, no one paused to reflect on that statement, for if they did, they would know it is bullshit. Anyone with any knowledge of history, whatsoever, can tell you that. But, I am getting off topic.

Well, with all this tweeting going on, the words “No God” became a trending topic (TT). Naturally, the same theists who created this TT, saw “No God” and assumed it was an attack on them. They immediately began tweeting to this topic, telling all of us non-believers (who were not involved in the TT at the time) that we were all going to hell. This only served to lift the TT “No God” higher and higher on the list. Tweets like this were common:

TroutAmbush @randeazie How about irony? After all, 90% of that TT was Christians butthurting about us “disrespecting” them, then saying we should burn.

The result was a tweet-war (or crusade if you ask a believer). It was actually a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn’t like to do a little trolling now and then? In fact, you could say I got my start on this crazy internets trolling AOL Christian chat rooms when I was 12. Today’s great debate provided quality entertainment for all parties. I saw threats, name calling, death wishes, calls to violence, and was personally called stupid by a Christian who misspelled several simple words in only 140 characters!

The forum was packed with both sides, the conversation had been going all day. Suddenly, Twitter decided it to pull the plug on the free exchange of ideas. The “No God” TT was censored, twice, the topic abruptly removed from the list as if it was never there. This is very surprising move from a tech company based out of San Francisco, don’t you think? It is the first time to my knowledge that Twitter has censored any legitimate topic. Does anyone know otherwise? I mean, they don’t even censor topics taken over by spambots so I’m assuming so, but I’m no Twitter historian.

What really bothers me is, there was no need for it. The topic was relatively civil when compared to the politics tags (#tcot #ocra #p2). So why censor it, Twitter? Are you saying that you don’t want atheism discussed en mass on your service? Why else would you move to hide a completely legitimate topic? Did you have technical, bandwidth (as you often do), or marketing issues? It is more likely that theists who couldn’t stand the existence of ideas contrary to theirs, pressured for the topic to be removed, and Twitter caved. Once again atheists are muted so that theists won’t be offended by ideas they don’t agree with, and couldn’t even see without searching for them. Any atheist living in America can tell you that we are constantly bombarded with ideas we could claim to find objectionable, indeed, they come to our homes.

This is of course because religion exists in a bubble free of criticism and inquiry. To question religion is to do something so offensive, that it apparently still can’t be done in public. Yes, in late 2009 fairy tales are just too taboo for Twitter, but an army of giant breasted spambots (or supressing free speech) is not.

UPDATE: I’ve been given a link by @kimshannon to a stats page with a nifty graph regarding the “no god” and “know god” trending topics traffic. Thanks Kim!

  1. If I used Twitter I'd join in and raise a fuss, but I've managed to resist so far. Good luck. Unfortunately, I'm not surprised by this. Lots of sites have shown no backbone when religious people cry butthurt.

  2. Hey. let's not forget this lovely bit of irony. twitter status for the last 21 hours:

    What's the most interesting Twitter story you've heard recently that shows the value of open exchange? Here's one: {link}

    irony as think as molasses.

  3. I know it was a wild day. I basically blew off work to enter my 2 cents and then some. I loved the ironic twist that it started pro-God and ended up on my side of things as No God. However, it looks like I did not stick around long enough to see it vanish. I thought for sure when I logged in this morning it would have still been at the top of the list. What Bullshit! Pardon my French, but if you know my Twitter name (Trendy_Searcher), a bad word was gonna happen. Excellent write up on the topic!

  4. This is far from the first time that Twitter has censored a trending topic. Most often they do it because of profanity, however. One such example was #goodpussy; that was definitely censored by Twitter.

  5. twitter removed the #trafigura hashtag during the events last week – expect more… 😦

  6. I stayed at work an extra 2.5 hours because of #No God. I was stuck defending atheism, and strangely, science. Believers tend to lump science and atheism together as one and the same. True, scientific thinking can lead to atheism, but they can be separate…there are religious scientists, actual REAL scientists, not the fakey school-book defacing kind who think the world is only a few thousand years old..

    So anyway, I ended up tweeting a bunch of positive-thinking atheism messages and in turn received threats and challenges. I took the challenges head on, showing inconsistencies in the bible, that there are MANY more people out there that believe in vastly different things than them, etc.

    Then I had to give a basic science lesson to a believer. She kept on throwing out Christian propaganda sites as "scientific evidence" for various Christian beliefs.. I spent quite a long time explaining what science really is.

    If anyone wants to check my tweets or possibly follow me, go find me at @zi11ion.

  7. Censorship is widespread in today's world. Both money and ignorance/religious intolerance talk.

  8. bottom line, twitter is a social media business, not an investigative news business. start an open argument about religious belief at a retail outlet and see how much sympathy you get. where does the expectation come from that twitter shouldn't manage posts? a lot of bloggers do the same on their own pages.

  9. @Greg: Please go read Twitter's own Rules page and tell me what part of this justified them in doing what they did in this case. Thanks.

  10. @Sparrowhawk: You should consider joining. I was reluctant myself, but it really is a valuable too. Plus, we could use another voice.

    @Trendy_Searcher: It certainly was. I definitely spent too much time following it when I should have been working. There wasn’t much atheist outrage last night, but it seems to have picked up a little today. This is why we are marginalized.

    @zi11ion: Yeah, there was a lot of defending science. It’s too funny (and ironic) that they can bash science while using a high global network of computers capable of pulling the sum of human knowledge out of thin air, all at the speed of light. They prefer to get their knowledge for an Iron Age text. Following you now.

    @Greg: No one is denying that Twitter technically has the right to censor whatever it wants. That doesn’t mean we have to like it. Also, given the nature of Twitter’s business and clientele, censorship makes no sense.

  11. I'm sad to see so many Christians do things that are so anti-christian and judgemental. Clearly they don't have the right relationship with God that He meant for them to have.

    Though athiests seem to ride in the same boat, and suggest that we were randomly created (which apparently means tornadoes can make Boeing 787s too by the way…) and tend to hate others just as much.

  12. @Anonymous:

    I knew your comment was going to be stupid the second I saw the word "Anonymous". That's a bunch of baseless garbage you've typed up there and I'm completely unsurprised that you did it anonymously. Well done. You've really impressed everyone here I'm sure. Grow a spine.

  13. @Anonymous: “tornadoes can make Boeing 787s” is a terrible (and well known) Christian misrepresentation of evolutionary theory.

  14. Why Oh why do they get so exited about catch phrases. Their whole world seems to be bumper stickers and message t shirts. Does coming up with a catchy phrase constitute proof of God. You might think it did from the frantic reaction. By the way how do you get to know the unknowable anyway?

  15. I got that same line today from a friend!! It was repackaged a little but still made me wanna bang my head into a wall.

  16. Face meet palm.

    Thankfully my friends have the foresight not to send me this sort of nonsense at all. It would likely result in a serious beat-down.

  17. So…the new hashtag should maybe be…#no nads
    Hi everybody. My name is Randy and I'm a Christian…..

    Now that THAT is out of the way, let us agree to disagree in a manner that promotes ommunity and provokes consideration. You may choose to live your life with utter disregard to any deity…that is your God-given privelege. But, please don't claim that the firebombs are coming mainly from the Christian camp. Any forum that strays into religion easily ortrays the true nature of all of the believers.
    As for science; it is the acquisition of knowledge through experimentation and study. Said excercises are only accurate if they are without bias. That is an impossible condition in this hyper-polarized society. Opinions that are based on desires rather than evidence are baseless. Let's deal with what is instead of what aught to be, shall we?
    And please tell me what part of science is dedicated to the spiritual realm…… It's like claiming that you can use a forked stick to find underground water.
    In closing – let me bring us back to the original phrase and share one observation. You may claim 'no God' or you may scream 'no peace' but I promise you it is impossible to truly know Jesus and fail to experience peace.
    Peace, like beauty, begins from within.
    Well children, that's enough cliche's for now.

  18. Great post. I wasted 5 hours at work in this No God debate and I never had so much fun on the clock before in my life. It amazes me that many so-called Christians know very little about their own bible and ironically attempt to defend "Know God". As an ex-Christian, I was voracious about, not just reading but, studying the bible. Having a scientific and logical mind led me to find the whole idea of faith without reason incompatible with my personality. I have become far more equipped to defend my atheist point of view with people that don't take the time to really know what they believe. Yesterday's debate was so much fun because theists exposed their ignorance and narrow minds for the whole world to see. And when they finally admitted to themselves that they were mentally over matched, they cried to "Big Brother" to come and beat us up. Hilarious, wish it would have lasted another day.

  19. @Randy

    >So…the new hashtag should maybe be…#no nads


    >As for science; it is the acquisition of knowledge through experimentation and study.

    Holy shit you actually seem to understand it. My fingers are crossed.

    >Said excercises are only accurate if they are without bias. That is an impossible condition in this hyper-polarized society.

    So…we can't know anything? Not even with science? Then why are you here arguing with us? I'm confused. *thinks back to all those theists who have accused atheists of being nihilists*

    >Let's deal with what is instead of what aught to be, shall we?

    Couldn't agree more! Hopefully this one won't be followed up by some kind of existentialist bullshit like the last one.

    >And please tell me what part of science is dedicated to the spiritual realm……

    Didn't you just say that science was the acquisition of knowledge through experimentation and study? I think you pre-emptively answered your own question.

    >I promise you it is impossible to truly know Jesus and fail to experience peace.

    Yes, I imagine delusion does bring a feeling something like "peace".

    >Well children, that's enough cliche's for now.

    Thank fuck for that.

  20. @Sparrowhawk
    No Nads as in 'Hey Twitter, grow some!"

    Science pertains to physical, material objects and elements. If you try to apply science to a spiritual pursuit, expect extreme frustration.

    You need to let facts point you where they will. How many people do you know that haven't let their opinions be shaped by their own personal wants and desires. I know I can count them on one hand.

    As far as delusion goes…..you obviously have decided that there is nothing else out there that you don't already know. I'm comfortable with the path that I am on. I cannot imagine waking up thinking there was nothing new to experience or learn. Sex, drugs, rock and roll. Been there – lived that. It ain't bad….but there's a whole lot more waiting for you….you just have to want the truth more than you want to protect your selfish pride or your hedonistic life style.
    The hard truth is this: None of this is about you or for you. It's all about God. He created it. He owns it. He gets to make all the arbitrary decisions…..just because He's God. And I'm cool with that. You call it delusional. I call it pragmatic.

  21. @WiseGuyEddie: Thanks. It totally could have gone another day. It was raging at the time of it's censorship. I've never had so much fun on the clock either, but it made what was a stressful day pass just a bit quicker.

  22. @Randy: Nice name, us Randys should stick together.

    That said, what evidence are you talking about? You see, that is the whole problem.

    One side of this debate can point to archaic texts, classic works of literature (deservedly or not) for its answers for the most fundamental questions. This side, claims to know the absolute truth (something you say Sparrowhawk does), and selectively rejects views it that contradict it. Evolution, cosmology, geology and biology are subject to cherry picking. Evidence is pigeon-holed to fit pre-existing beliefs.

    On the other side the same evidence is subject to the harshest scrutiny. Theories are constantly looked over by rivals for any flaw in reasoning and execution. We don't claim to have all the answers, in fact we embrace being wrong, for when we are, we have learned something It can point to observation, reason and experiment to answer the same fundamental questions. Absolute truth doesn't exist here, and that can lead us to so much more. There is no telling where new evidence will lead us.

  23. So anyways, I thought "No God Twitter Tuesday (My emphasis) was cool and fun for the most part. first time here, check back latter. coolio. Out.


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