"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," said Frank Wright, president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).
The report, released Sept. 15 in Washington, examined the policies and practices of Apple, Facebook, Google, Myspace and Twitter, as well as Internet service providers Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.
Twitter is the only corporation that did not show signs of religious discrimination, according to the report. Twitter refuses to monitor or remove content unless it interferes with the terms of service.
The ideal proposition for solving this problem, according to the NRB, is to persuade the individual companies to eradicate censorship voluntarily and abide by their obligation to protect free speech. If the suggestions are not taken into consideration, NRB said it is willing to respond with such actions as legislation, regulation or litigation.
NRB's report included 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 of England to purchase advertisement space because of its information about abortion law. After the institute sued Google under Britain's Equality Act, the Internet conglomerate revised its policy, requiring the information to be "factual."
These few giant corporations virtually rule the vast Internet world. The report, an effort of the NRB's John Milton Project, says corporate leaders hold the power to ban content when they alone determine whether an application, website, article or viewpoint is considered "accurate" and "factual."
A recurring theme when dealing with online censorship is the question of whether the First Amendment should apply to these privately owned and operated corporations. The right to free speech only pertains to public utilities; however, the Internet is a resource that is used as a public forum for discussion on a daily basis.
The report emphasizes the Internet as an outlet through which individuals can address controversial issues to a "potentially unlimited audience." It also says the freedom to express those opinions through this continually improving technological channel must be defended.
"I hope these companies, the good companies that they are, get the message that they may be coloring outside the lines here," said Colby May, director of the Washington, D.C., offices of the American Center for Law and Justice. May spoke during a panel discussion after the release of the NRB report at the National Press Club. "Let's do the right thing here."
NRB is a non-partisan, international association of Christian communicators. It said it tackled the issue because it is "committed to representing Christian broadcasting wherever threats to religious freedom emerge."
The NRB report can be accessed online at http://content.nrb.org/Webdocs/Legal/True%20liberty-in-a-New-Media-Age9-15-11.pdf.
Holly Naylor, a senior at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., is attending the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' Washington Journalism Center this semester and serving as an intern with Baptist Press.
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