New Media Censors Christian Speech
Special Report - September 23, 2011
Several of today’s most popular social media platforms have policies and practices in place that censor the expression of Christian viewpoints, according to a new report from The John Milton Project for Religious Freedom of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). The 47-page report, “True Liberty in a New Media Age: An Examination of the Threat of Anti-Christian Censorship and Other Viewpoint Discrimination on New Media Platforms,” was released on September 15 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The report details the findings of an 18-month analysis conducted by NRB Senior Vice President and General Counsel Craig Parshall. It examined the policies and practices of several of the most popular new media platforms, specifically Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google, and Apple iTunes App Store, as well as the Internet service providers (ISPs) Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.
“When we started our John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech, I sensed a gathering storm building, with 'new media' companies like Apple, Facebook and Google considering the option of censoring Christian content off their sites,” said Parshall in a press release. “Now, a little more than a year later, after finishing our extensive study, I am convinced that religious free speech rights will face a First Amendment hurricane if action is not taken immediately.”
The NRB report begins by warning that, “Christian ideas and other religious content face clear and present danger of censorship on web-based communication platforms.” It identifies a number of recent examples of anti-Christian censorship by the most popular new media platforms, noting that some of these companies “have already banned Christian content and others have adopted public positions that make such censorship all but inevitable.” Two examples from the report include:
- Apple has “twice removed applications that contain Christian content from the iTunes App Store,” one involving marriage redefinition, and another involving homosexuality;
- Google has “committed past practices of anti-religious censorship, such as refusing to accept a pro-life ad from a Christian organization.”
After examining the written policies of the new media platforms, the report concluded “only the [written] policies of Twitter would pass First Amendment muster…All of the other new media platforms and service providers have written policies in place that violate fundamental rules of free expression, as applied to religious free speech.” (The specific written policies for each new media platform in question can be found in the Appendix of the report). The report found that Facebook, Google, Comcast, and AT&T “have issued written policies that prohibit controversial ideas on so-called ‘hot button’ issues, or that severely limit the kinds of expression that can be used regarding subjects such as abortion, or that ban content merely based on the viewpoint complaints of other users.”
Another key finding from the NRB report is that Facebook, Google, and MySpace have “expressly anti-religious free speech policies, forbidding such things as ‘politically religious agendas (Facebook), or content that advocates against gay rights groups or that might criticize … the doctrine of a religious organization or sect because its tenets conflict with the Bible (Google), or content that might contain expressions of homophobia (MySpace).”
The NRB report offers a number of suggestions to solve the problem of anti-Christian censorship, beginning with asking the new media companies to “voluntarily renounce any past practice of anti-Christian censorship, to embrace revisions of their written policies that reflect basic free speech principles, and to publicly declare that they will abide in the future by these principles and will avoid viewpoint censorship of otherwise lawful content.” The NRB offers to “dialogue with these companies” about these revisions. As an alternative, the NRB also suggests carefully crafted federal legislation banning viewpoint censorship on new media platforms; and/or regulation by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC); and, if all else fails, litigation as a last resort.
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Court Upholds Free Speech - April 11, 2011
Groups Fight For Religious Freedom - October 31, 2010
Freedom Of Religion Statement Issued - January 20, 2010
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