WASHINGTON – Apple, Google and other Internet giants are
participating in religious discrimination and restricting free speech,
according to a new report by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).
“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 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
- 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
- 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.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – 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