It would figure that by the time the church world finally embraced social media and live streaming, issues with censorship of religious and moral views have become increasingly predominant.
This curtain of censorship that I see that is being used to shut down certain religious and moral voices is a ploy.
From how I see it, social platform policies that were once inclusive are being rewritten to accommodate “inclusiveness,” giving platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest ammunition against various faith and anti-abortion voices. These platforms have gone so far as to employ tools like banning, censoring, demonetizing, and deplatforming to sanitize their social platforms.
Organizations like PraegerU and Live Action, for example, and people like Franklin Graham and Stephen Crowder, are examples of those who have had to contend with such overreach by social media platforms, seeking to limit and segregate moral voices.
In recent months and weeks, each of those noted above have been targeted using a variety of tactics, some with temporary ramifications, some permanent. While these are people and organizations with the financial ability to fight back, when these same tactics are used against churches and para-church organizations, too often those voices on those platforms are silenced.
Getting church leaders to care about this is likely to be as hard as getting them to do a weekly vlog in the first place.
Why worry about losing access to a social platform, and with that a diminished online reach, when the platform they care most about is made of wood and nails, and their audience shows up in person week after week?
Even if your church has invested thousands in a streaming ministry or carefully cultivated their social media profiles, losing them suddenly likely won’t affect the core mission and function of your church.
What’s really happening?
With social platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest having fought to be classified as “platforms,” rather than “publishers,” it came with federal protections, such as being able to claim no responsibility for the content their users post to their sites.
At the same time, though, with these platforms moving forward with more stringent censorship policies, it would seem to be that they are behaving more like “publishers,” beginning to take on the responsibility of policing their users’ content.
If they want to be reclassified as “publishers,” though, the immediate result will be that they will open themselves up to countless lawsuits over content they don’t choose to censor, or don’t censor fast enough. They’re not going to let that happen.
Instead, it would seem that the giant companies like Facebook and Google are now asking the federal government to treat them like utilities and thereby apply government regulations to the industry as a whole. Many on both sides of the aisle are in favor of this move, because from the outset, it would seem to alleviate the censoring issue, or at least ensure that rules are applied “fairly.”
A bigger issue, though, would arise in my view if such a change was made, with it likely shutting down competition. As a result of these newly created burdensome regulations, it would prevent a start-up or smaller company from complying with the new rules, while those companies with the resources to comply, could secure their seats at the government-approved monopoly table.
Just last week, Twitter demanded that the anti-abortion group Live Action must make sweeping changes to their Twitter account and their website, before it could once again regain access to their Twitter account. Such a trend is growing and becoming more invasive from my perspective.
Why should you care?
The curtain of censorship that I see that is being used to shut down certain religious and moral voices is a ploy, and if faith leaders fail to make a move, or the wrong move, we can lose our collective voice on the most powerful tools ever created to spread the Gospel and disciple the nations.
Social media has become the public square, and as long as they are “platforms,” and not “publishers,” you have a First Amendment right to use that public square to spread the gospel, publish sermons, educate and relate to your congregation.
What can you do?
As a church, especially if your church hasn’t had an online strategy, now is the time to implement one. Understand that as social platforms may seek to shut down certain voices, they can’t deplatform everyone.
Using group tools like Realm from ACS Technologies, or Mighty Networks can help your congregation stay connected and engaged without using social media, in the event that your church finds itself unexpectedly caught up in the censorship tide.
As a social media consumer, when you learn that a ministry leader or organization has been demonetized or banned – share their posts, raise awareness, and support them.
Be sure to connect with ministries you care about directly through their email lists, websites, subscriptions, etc. You already know that you can’t rely on social media to show everything a ministry posts to every one of their followers.
This should be the kind of activism every church and every believer can get behind – simply staking claim to a corner of social media and using it to share the Gospel and teach the Truth.
These basic strategies are within your reach.
The internet is the greatest gift to the Gospel since the printing press. It’s up to all of us, not just the big names, to flood it with the Light of Truth.
Ban: When a person or organization is prohibited from posting or commenting for a period of time as a punishment for violating the platform’s terms of service or policies.
Censor: On social media, when a post or video is removed by the platform, for violating the platform’s terms of service or policies.
Demonetize: To remove the ability to earn money through ads on a website or video. Can be done to an individual post, or to an entire channel/profile.
Deplatform: Level 1: To restrict reach so followers of an account aren’t shown the content. Level 2: To remove administrative access to a social media account. Level 3: Coordinated revocation of access to multiple social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Shopify, eBay)