Sunday, 18 September 2011

Study Shows Social Media Sites Censor Christian Views

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computer censorshipThe National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), the official organization representing the interests of Christian broadcasters and ministries, has released a report showing that social media websites are actively censoring Christian viewpoints. According to an NRB press release, the group’s study examined “the practices of Apple and its iTunes App Store, Google, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, as well as Internet service providers AT&T, Comcast and Verizon,” The findings, said the NRB’s senior vice president and general counsel, Craig Parshall, were “ominous.”

Commenting on the report, the NRB’s president and CEO, Dr. Frank Wright, noted that nearly 70 years ago “NRB was founded in the fires of adversity when government regulations, combined with policy decisions by major networks, made it virtually impossible for evangelical ministers to buy radio airtime.” In today’s world, he said, “millions of individuals use radio, television, and the Internet to listen to the broadcasts, live web streaming, and podcasts of NRB member organizations.” If the viewpoints and content of Christian groups continue to be targeted for censorship by new media companies, warned Wright, the message of the Christian faith “could become one more casualty of institutionalized religious discrimination.”

The NRB found that among the major players in new media, only Twitter had shown fairness toward Christian opinions. “There’s actually a pattern of anti-Christian censorship that’s already occurred among several of them,” said Parshall. “And, then, when we looked farther, looked at their written policies, we found that [anti-Christian policy with] everyone of them, except for Twitter.” He added that Twitter received an “A+” from the religious broadcast group. “The rest of them get failing grades.”

Colby May of the American Center for Law and Justice, who partnered with the NRB in the year and a-half study, told CBN News, “There is a kind of viewpoint censorship that’s going on. And we need to go ahead and stand up and say, ‘Stop. Not here. Don’t do it. Wrong way. Turn around now.’”

One of the most conspicuous examples of censorship the NRB found was that targeting viewpoints that challenged the notion that homosexuality is a normal and healthy lifestyle. As reported by The New American, over the past year Apple has bowed to pressure from homosexual activists to pull two iPhone apps — one by Exodus International, a group that helps individuals leave the homosexual lifestyle, and another “that included the text of a Christian document entitled the Manhattan Declaration, which among other things, makes a strong declaration of the sanctity of life, the scriptural view of traditional marriage, and the importance of religious liberty.”

The NRB study found that of the 425,000 or so apps available through Apple’s iTunes App Store, only these two were taken down solely because of the viewpoints they expressed on homosexuality.

May said that “you have to ask yourself, ‘Why just these two viewpoints of the hundreds of thousands that you have?’ And when you get the explanation, it’s ‘Well, some people were ruffled. They felt they were offended by it.’”

He warned that when the opinions of a particular group can determine the content allowed online, it means that society is crossing over “into this netherworld where offense is now the justification upon which the rights we have as Americans to fully engage in the culture and to debate all issues is going to be decided.”

Among the other findings of the NRB study, part of its John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech:

• Facebook has indicated that it will delete all instances of content that it considers to be anti-homosexual. Ironically, reported the Christian Post, in “a January 2010 interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg praised social networking for opening people up to share ‘more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.’”

Noted the NRB report: “The position of Facebook on the issue of homosexuality and its collaboration with gay right group the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD), coupled with its troublesome written policies, are all strong indicators that its social networking platform poses a high index of risk for anti-Christian discrimination.”

• The Google for Non-Profits web tool includes a policy that excludes churches, ministries, and other faith groups that consider religion or sexual orientation in their hiring practices.

Reported the Christian Post: “Google has also committed a number of free speech violations, the NRB report alleges. The world’s most powerful search engine initially prohibited the English Christian Institute from purchasing space for an advertisement about abortion. It also allegedly blocked a Massachusetts pro-family website because of its conservative Christian content.”

• While virtually all major new media platforms ban what is generally referred to as “hate speech,” what that definition generally boils down to is unacceptable viewpoints on such issues as homosexuality.

In the NRB report Parshall wrote that “new media companies have been shown to be responsive to market forces and the demands of pressure groups calling for censorship of those otherwise lawful viewpoints that are reasonably debatable but are deemed to be politically incorrect.” He added that there is “a clear economic motivation for new media companies to cave in to petition drives that imply a resulting boycott if demands for censorship are not met.”

Parshall told Focus on the Family that all the offending companies have been invited to discuss their policies with NRB. “We want to work with, not against, these companies as much as possible,” he said. “But they’ve come out of the gate pretty hostile to people of faith.”

Parshall noted that one former FCC commissioner who attended NRB’s briefing at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. expressed his deep concern over the censorship trend. “It ought to be troubling to all Americans,” added Parshall. “We think that with the great power, great success, and great wealth these companies have comes a great measure of responsibility for the American people.”

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