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New Media, Old Bias

Back in the old days — say, 10 years ago — Christians used to complain about liberal media bias. The newspapers and networks had a stranglehold on what was considered news. And because most members of the national media were part of the liberal cultural elite, polite indifference was usually the best we could expect.

Now, of course, all that has changed, right? The mainstream media monopoly has been broken up. You don’t have to rely on ABC, NBC, CBS or The New York Times to get your news — or to air your views. Technological advances have opened up amazing communication opportunities through outlets like the Web, Facebook, Twitter, smart phones and more.

But as encouraging as this democratization of communication has been, we’re still facing viewpoint discrimination, and in some ways it’s harder than ever to root out.

The National Religious Broadcasters, the respected evangelical trade group, has issued a new report warning that religious content faces a “clear and present danger of censorship” from Facebook, iTunes and other new media platforms. The NRB’s Craig Parshall says, “With the single exception of Twitter, all the new media platforms and services that we examined have issued written policies governing citizen users that are clearly inconsistent with the free speech values of the U.S. Constitution.”

Strong words, but proof isn’t hard to find. Remember how Apple dropped our Manhattan Declaration iPhone app because gay-rights activists had complained about the Declaration’s support of traditional marriage? That was not an unfortunate aberration. The NRB report notes, “Of the 425,000 apps available on Apple’s iPhone, the only ones censored by Apple for expressing otherwise lawful viewpoints have been apps with Christian content.”

Then there is the discriminatory policy that Google has just introduced. The Internet search giant has excluded churches and other so-called “proselytizing groups” from free or discounted access to several of its tools, including e-mail, that other nonprofits receive.

Meanwhile, the report says, Facebook has partnered with gay-rights advocates to halt content on its social networking site deemed to be “anti-homosexual.” Friends, that means that traditional Christian teaching about homosexuality and marriage may soon be off-limits on Facebook.

That’s censorship. The NRB report says all this is not just a question of protecting religious liberty. It’s also an issue of free speech, which is supposedly what the new media are all about.

That’s why the NRB isn’t looking to sue anyone or pass a new law. No, it’s hoping to convince the new media companies to live up to their best ideals and change these injustices voluntarily.

But the NRB could use our help. First, please get a copy of the report, “True Liberty in a New Media Age,” and share it with your friends. You can get a link on our website. Then contact your Internet service provider and other new media platforms and let them know you support free speech and religious liberty.

Ask them what their policies regarding religious speech are. Then let them know, politely and firmly, what you expect. And share your free-speech views with other users. Let’s encourage members of the new media to practice what they preach, and of course, we’ll do the same.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.

Publication date: September 26, 2011

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