MAURO PIANTA, TURIN(Vatican Insider). A report commissioned by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), a U.S. association of Christian communicators, based in Virginia, which claims itself to be “neutral” has revealed that new media censors Christian beliefs. Zenit news agency reported that the study in question, examines attitudes adopted by the world’s main companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter, with regards to Christian religion. The verdict? According to the dossier, “it is evident that Christian ideas and other religious content are being censored by internet communication platforms.”
These are serious accusations for social networks which proclaim themselves as champions of the freedom of expression. The report offers some examples. “In November 2010, Apple revoked its approval of the Manhattan Declaration application.” The reason for this was Christianity’s convictions with regards to marriage, the sacredness of life and religious freedom. One of the authors of the study wrote that “one of the declarations clauses says homosexuality is immoral and this, according to Apple, is offensive.” The same fate was met by the application for Exodus International, a Christian initiative that helps people abandon homosexual life. The report affirmed that “once again, the Cupertino based company declared this was offensive and violated its guidelines.” According to the report’s authors, all this does not tally with the freedom of expression standards established by the Supreme Court’s First Amendment.
Google is no stranger to this either. The search engine offers tools for the benefit of no profit organisations. Free use or discounted rates for these internet tools are not available for churches or religious organisations that choose their staff according to their religious beliefs and sexual orientation. The report also said that requests made by churches to Google to be considered as no profit organisations, were rejected.
The study underlined that the situation is supposed to be brighter on Facebook and Twitter. Here again, however, homosexuality seems to be the pea under the mattress.
The report ended with an appeal in favour of the freedom of expression: do not censor “legitimate” Christian content, it said. The problem remains of where companies which, one must not forget, are privately owned, decide to draw the line between what is legitimate and what is not.
While I sympathize with the frustration expressed in the article, I would be hesitant to describe the content policy of Apple or Google as “censorship.”
First of all, censorship is a governmental actions. What the article is objecting to are the actions of what are after all private corporations. The officers of these companies have the right, and even the obligation, NOT to disseminate ideas that they consider immoral. Do I agree with the view of human sexuality that informs their decisions? No, I don’t. I’ve not read the banned content but I’m willing to accept for the sake of argument that it accurately reflects the moral tradition of the Church.
But whether I agree with the decision or not isn’t the point.
The point is that I don’t have the legal or moral right to tell someone else how to use their property. If I don’t like Apple’s policy relative to homosexuality I can (1) not use Apple products or (2) start my own computer company.
What I can’t do is accuse a private corporation or individual of infringing on my freedom of speech because they don’t want to publish ideas with which they disagree.
This isn’t an issue of censorship or a violation of anyone’s Constitutional rights.
It is however a rather thinly veiled attempt by a group to coerce a corporation to violate its own moral standards. It pains me to say this since I agree with at least one of those groups (those who published the Manhattan Declaration app) that have been banned by different social media companies.
But again, whether I agree with them or not, whether I think they are short sighted or not, Google not extending free services to churches isn’t censorship even if it might be bad business.