|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2019
Call Comes After Silicon Valley Fails to Affirm Free Speech Commitment
WASHINGTON (NRB) – With growing evidence of censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints on social media platforms – and after Big Tech leaders failed to implement its own free speech charter – National Religious Broadcasters is urging a “careful” congressional review of the “Good Samaritan” protections in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“It is unacceptable for technology giants to discriminate by algorithmic bias or human will against users just because their viewpoints are not congruent with ideas popular in Silicon Valley,” said Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of NRB, in letters sent today to the chairs and ranking members of the House Judiciary, House Energy and Commerce, Senate Judiciary, and Senate Commerce committees. “This problem deserves scrutiny and thoughtful consideration from the people’s representatives, so I respectfully request hearings for that purpose.”
The call for hearings comes after Big Tech leaders failed to respond to repeated requests from NRB to craft a free speech charter protecting users’ viewpoints while still permitting them to combat obscenity, incitements to violence, and other misuses of their platforms, “without unduly burdening free expression with an array of confusing and haphazardly applied speech codes,” Johnson told the congressional leaders. “I am still hopeful that such a charter could yet be put forward by the industry.”
In the absence of such a charter, however, Johnson said it’s time for Congress to reevaluate the special protections given to Big Tech in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“Rather than some other possibly heavy-handed government interventions that have been suggested – for example, any type of Fairness Doctrine for the internet would be unconscionable – I suggest that it is time for Congress to explore further what may be the costs and benefits of removing or conditionally suspending Section 230’s extra layer of government-granted content moderation protection for ubiquitous platforms suspected of acting in bad faith,” Johnson said.
Shortly before Christmas, the Facebook page of international evangelist and NRB member Franklin Graham received a 24-hour ban for content he posted in 2016 affirming biblical understandings of gender. Although Facebook later said the ban was a mistake and indicated it would apologize to Graham for the error, the incident is yet another example of the censorship problem, Johnson then said.
“That the ban happened at all illustrates the pattern of censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints by Facebook, which the company has failed to acknowledge and apologize for — a pattern shared by other Big Tech platforms,” Johnson told one media outlet in a report about the Graham Facebook ban. “How many similar bans have happened to Christians without the profile of Franklin Graham who have never received their apology?”
After years of monitoring the issue, NRB launched its Internet Freedom Watch initiative at the end of 2017 to draw greater attention to the problem of online censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints. Facebook’s censorship of Graham is the latest example of more than 40 high-profile cases of viewpoint censorship across social media platforms that are documented on the IFW timeline. When NRB launched IFW, the organization urged Congress to hold hearings about online censorship, several of which were held throughout 2018. In addition to the IFW website, NRB has also educated its membership about the problem with a panel discussion at its annual convention and Johnson’s annual president’s address.
In September during a Silicon Valley technology conference, Johnson first voiced the possibility NRB would call for a review of Section 230, warning that if the Big Tech companies failed to take concrete steps for free speech by the end of 2018, he would call for congressional action.
NRB’s call for review of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act comes as several congressional leaders from both parties – including Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) – have also raised issues with Big Tech’s guaranteed immunities under that law for the way they treat user content on their platforms.
In the coming weeks, NRB will be seeking congressional support for hearings on Section 230 and possible solutions to the problem of online censorship of viewpoints not favored by progressive Silicon Valley.
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. This year, NRB marks its 75th anniversary as an association. 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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