|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 24, 2018
WASHINGTON (NRB) – The president & CEO of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) told a gathering of innovators in technology and policy that social media companies need to fix the problem of censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints before the end of this year, or there will be calls for Congress to have a hearing to examine Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“They need to fix this quickly,” said Dr. Jerry A. Johnson during a panel discussion on the reported silencing of “unpopular voices” at the Reboot 2018 conference in San Francisco on Friday. “And what I’m saying is: if they don’t do this – by December 31, mind you – we are going to ask Congress to take a look at 230,” he added, saying NRB would ask for “very careful, thoughtful” hearings.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was inserted in the 1996 Telecommunications Act in part to facilitate “Good Samaritan” blocking of offensive content without exposing web companies to lawsuits based on content that their efforts may have missed.
But Johnson suggested Friday that Big Tech companies no longer need “an extra layer of protection,” stating that Section 230 “came in when it was a new day.”
“It’s time to leave the ‘incubator,’” Johnson said. “Why do they need that now?”
The NRB leader went on to say that the best solution is for Big Tech companies themselves to come up with a free speech charter based on First Amendment principles, which would keep the government from having to intervene.
“We’ve been calling for this for eight years,” he said.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Johnson later added. “It would be their own voluntary change.”
If, however, those companies don’t fix the problem, Johnson said it might be necessary to “get a ‘scalpel,’ an ‘exacto knife,’ and carve out a very particular space for Facebook, for Twitter, for YouTube” in Section 230.
“Carving out this section of 230, all it would do is would say, ‘If you’re going to push your hand on the scale in the great public debates of the day … then have your day in court,” Johnson stated, noting that he was not referring to the blocking of content from obscure Nazis or other fringe groups, but from mainstream individuals such as Dennis Prager, whose protracted viewpoint censorship battle with Google’s YouTube was brought up during the discussion. Presently, more than 80 videos from Prager’s PragerU are restricted because they present a conservative point of view.
“They were put in the adults-only section, which is really for pornography and violence,” Johnson stated.
To those who question whether there is evidence of discrimination against conservatives, Johnson pointed to InternetFreedomWatch.org, an initiative of NRB that has been tracking cases of censorship against Christian and conservative viewpoints, such as Prager’s case.
Johnson noted the case of Chuck Colson’s Manhattan Declaration, which was removed from Apple’s App Store in 2010 for expressing mainstream conservative Christian views.
He also highlighted more recent cases, like those of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Todd Starnes.
“These are mainstream public figures,” he said. “You don’t see a correlation with Al Sharpton being taken off, or Rachel Maddow being taken off, or Planned Parenthood being taken off. It is a pattern. It is there. It’s absolutely there.”
Johnson also shared how NRB’s own NRBTV was prevented from running a livestream on YouTube for three months. The Nashville-based Christian television network, which runs a model similar to PBS and NPR, was only told that it had violated community standards, and was never given a clear answer, even after the ban was lifted.
“They never told us why except that we violated community standards. They didn’t say what show it was or anything,” Johnson reported.
Other speakers on the panel sponsored by The Lincoln Network included Eric Goldman, Professor at Santa Clara University School of Law; Corynne McSherry, Legal Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and Jesse Blumenthal, Manager of Tech and Innovation at the Charles Koch Institute, who moderated the panel.
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth, promote media excellence, and defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at www.nrb.org.
About the NRB Convention
The annual NRB International Christian Media Convention is the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications. The dynamic Exposition consists of around 200 companies and is an active marketplace for those seeking tools and services to expand their organizations. The next Convention will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, March 26-29, 2019. For more information, go to www.nrbconvention.org.
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