Hackers reprogrammed a computerized road sign in Utah and made it flash, “GOD HATES GAYS.”
The directional sign altered between the anti-gay comment and the original message, “FOLLOW DETOUR,” on August 9 after 10 pm in Provo, Utah.
“Someone went in and reprogrammed this message board. We take this extremely seriously because of its offensive nature and because these signs are meant to keep the public safe,” said Leigh Dethma, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).
News of the hateful message spread after Annie Frewin took a video of the flashing sign and posted it on YouTube.
But although Provo officials claim the message does not represent the views of their town, Frewin expressed concern on Facebook that it took so long to take the sign down.
“GOD HATES GAYS” continued to light up the road until the sign was taken down at 5:30 am.
While local police pull over drivers all night for the smallest mistakes, Frewin said they ignored something as offensive as this sign.
“You get stalked, watched and pulled over” by the cops, she said. “But if you put something like this up, [they say] ‘nah, we’ll let it go.’”
Dethma said tampering the sign would require someone to physically go up to the sign in order to change it. But Frewin said there are almost always police on the road.
“I’ve never ever gone down that road, especially at 1 am, without seeing at least 3 cops at one end of that road between the overpass and the freeway entrances,” she added.
While the perpetrator has not been found, some residents have wondered if the offensive message was a contractor’s idea of a bad joke.
A 2010 opinion poll found that Utah ranks last among all states in support of same-sex marriage. Also it is among the two most restrictive US states in terms of gay adoption on par with Mississippi. In both states same sex couples cannot legally adopt children.
But Facebook user Trevor Davis responded to the video, claiming that hacking into road signs is easy.
“Those things are incredibly easy to reprogram,” he said. “I can just about guarantee that Provo had nothing to do with it.”
The UDOT is investigating the hacking scandal, but may not be able to find the culprit because there were no video cameras near the sign.