Published: 10:45 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 07 October 2011
Web giants accused of censoring religious speech
Country/Region: United States
The US-based National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) group has accused Facebook, Google and Apple of religious discrimination and restricting free speech.
The NRB released a report that examined the policies and practices of Apple, Facebook, Google, Myspace and Twitter, as well as Internet service providers Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.
It found that Facebook, Apple, Comcast, AT&T and Google have adopted policies to censor the expression of lawful Christian views or controversial ideas on “hot button issues.” Some platforms, such as Apple’s iTunes App Store and Google’s search engine, have already started to use those policies to remove Christian viewpoints considered “offensive” or too controversial.
According to the report, Twitter is the only company that did not show signs of religious discrimination, as it refuses to monitor or remove content unless it interferes with the terms of service.
NRB President Frank Wright said:
If Christian content and worldview programming are censored by new media platforms ... the Good News of the Gospel could become one more casualty of institutionalized religious discrimination.
The NRB says that the ideal solution is to persuade the individual companies to eradicate censorship voluntarily and abide by their obligation to protect free speech. If these suggestions are not accepted, however, NRB said it is willing to respond with legislation, regulation or litigation.
NRB's report includes the following examples of discrimination or potential censorship:
- Apple offers hundreds of thousands of iPhone applications, but removed two apps by ex-gay Christian ministry Exodus International. Consumers were denied access to these two apps because their Christian content was considered "offensive".
- Facebook's decision to partner with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD) could mean that "Christian content critical of homosexuality, same-sex marriage or similar practices will be at risk of censorship".
- Google initially refused to allow the Christian Institute in England to purchase advertising space because of its material referred to the abortion law. After the institute sued Google under Britain's Equality Act, the Internet conglomerate revised its policy, merely requiring the information to be "factual."
The report emphasises that the Internet is an outlet through which individuals can address controversial issues to a "potentially unlimited audience". It also says that the freedom to express those opinions through this continually improving technological channel must be defended.
NRB is a non-partisan, international association of Christian communicators. It said that it addressed this issue because it is "committed to representing Christian broadcasting wherever threats to religious freedom emerge".
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