Censorship of Christian and conservative speech online by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple is the target of an initiative called Internet Freedom Watch, launched Thursday by the National Religious Broadcasters.
The initiative has established a website, InternetFreedomWatch.org, to document cases, including Twitter’s removal of an ad by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., in October and Facebook’s removal of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s post supporting Chick-fil-A in 2012.
NRB, which has published a chart with more than 30 instances of Internet censorship, said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and a former Federal Communications Commission commissioner have endorsed the effort.
Jerry A. Johnson, NRB’s president and CEO, pointed out at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington that NRB was founded in 1944 in response to corporate censorship of evangelical radio ministries.
He said the group now wants to address “those who desire to expunge opposing viewpoints from the marketplace of ideas by recklessly using nebulous terms like ‘hate speech.’”
Last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai accused Twitter and other tech companies of being disingenuous by arguing for a free and open Internet while they “routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like.”
CNN reported his remarks came as part of a speech on his recently revealed plan to unravel Obama-era net neutrality protections.
Pai, appointed by President Trump to head the agency, called out Twitter for appearing to have a “double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users.”
Tech giants have received a letter from NRB urging dialogue and a resolution to the threats against religious freedom.
NRB also wants Congress to hold hearings on the “severe problem of viewpoint censorship on the Internet.”
“It is unacceptable for these titans to discriminate against users just because their viewpoints are not congruent with ideas popular in Silicon Valley,” Johnson said.
The NRB chief emphasized his organization is not yet calling for new laws or regulations but insists the issue must be addressed.
Cruz was part of a panel discussion led by Johnson, along with former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell; Craig Strazzeri, chief marketing officer for PragerU, a victim of internet censorship; and evangelical leader Ralph Reed, chairman and CEO of Century Strategies.
In a recent case noted by Internet Freedom Watch, PJ Media D.C. editor Bridget Johnson was suspended from Twitter with no warning or explanation. PM Media reported Monday it had been nearly a week since the suspension and Twitter had offered no reason for the move.