Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Christian broadcasters warn of increased online censorship

A women’s advocacy group, the Uprising of Women in the Arab World, complained in November that Facebook had deleted one of its photos and suspended five administrator accounts for its Facebook page. The apparently offensive photo showed an unveiled Arab woman in a sleeveless top, holding, in a call for liberation, a passport photo of herself wearing the hijab.
Among other content Facebook temporarily censored in 2012 was an image and caption criticizing President Obama for his handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The social media platform also took Mike Huckabee’s “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” event page offline for 12 hours during the summer media firestorm over Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s support for heterosexual marriage.
In each of these cases, Facebook later apologized and claimed the content had been removed by mistake. But Craig Parshall, director of the John Milton Project for Free Speech at National Religious Broadcasters, a Christian association, says such incidents have become all too common. The John Milton Project published a report in September detailing examples of censorship from new media companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. The companies’ policies allow them to remove user-generated content the companies deem offensive, Parshall says, including so-called “hate speech, or controversial political or religious content, even if it would be otherwise lawful.”
More examples: In 2010 and 2011, responding to complaints from homosexual activists, Apple permanently removed from its App Store applications from two groups—Manhattan Declaration and Exodus International—that promote heterosexual marriage. Google’s video-sharing service, YouTube, last May blocked as “hate speech” a youth speaker’s video that warned against gay “marriage.” Earlier in 2012, Ryan Faust, senior pastor of Grace Church in Seattle, told me Facebook had censored lengthy comments he posted regarding the Bible and gay “marriage.”


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