Google censoring the BIBLE? Censorship by Google and Facebook growing in the US
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Censorship is a growing problem in cyberspace. Media outlets and content producers across the web are learning the hard way that if Goolge and Facebook disagree with your opinion, you will be silenced and run out of business. It is time to regulate social media to protect free speech.
Censorship by Google and Facebook is stifling free speech in America.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) -- In some countries, posting a meme that is critical of the government will get you arrested and put in jail. What happens after that depends on where you live. You could walk free after a short time, or you could be put to death.
As Americans, we have always cherished our right to freedom of expression. It is such an important right, we enshrined it in our Constitution as the First Amendment.
The First Amendment lets us say and do a lot of things. Yes, it allows Nazis and Klansmen to march in public in full regalia. Most people find that offensive. It also allows us to counter-protest these events, and to criticize people who participate in those marches. It allows us to worship, pray and preach our many faiths. It allows us to publish books of all kinds. It permits scholars to write essays. It sparks political reforms, and changes in the way we do things. It allows us to petition our government, make music, art, movies, and much more.
For over two hundred years, the public forum created by the First Amendment has been jealously guarded against all infringement.
But in the past few decades, the public forum has changed. It has moved into cyberspace where private corporations rule. Today, Google dominates the realm of internet searches as well as the advertising market, and YouTube, which it owns. Facebook dominates social media.
Whereas a few decades ago, most people got their news and information via the newspaper and television, today most people consume media on their mobile devices. They use the internet to access Google, YouTube, and Facebook, and this is where they get their news and information.
The problem is that Google and Facebook have started to aggressively censor content across the web. And they're turning to questionable organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center to tell them how to do it. The result is overbearing censorship, particularly of conservative media.
In 2014, as the Islamic State conquered a swathe of territory across Syria and Iraq, the terrorists released a series of gruesome propaganda videos to terrorize the rest of the world. These videos were swiftly censored. Google, YouTube and a host of smaller media providers often removed these videos within minutes to hours of their posting. The justification was that the blood and gore violated their terms of service. They often added they did not want to provide the terrorists with a channel of communication that could be used to promote terrorism.
For some time, censorship was restricted to that kind of content, but within the past two years, it has steadily grown.
Soon, any content critical of Islam or that dealt with terrorism was subject to censorship. The restrictions have since spread further. Today, any kind of content that is considered offensive, hateful, or that could inspire hatred or violence is subject to censorship.
Most of the content facing censorship comes from the right wing of the political spectrum. Neo-Nazi organizations like Stormfront have been booted entirely off the web. But the censorship does not end with Nazis.
Last week, a conservative group, The Liberty Conservative, was ordered to remove a piece that explained the difference between the Alt-Right movement and actual Nazis. Google deemed the piece offensive, and demanded they take it down.
The Liberty Conservative relented and removed the piece. Had they refused, Google would have kept all of their advertising revenue from their Ad Sense account. Ad Sense is Google's advertising platform that pays content providers, such as The Liberty Conservative for displaying ads on their webpages. Many media outlets rely on this money to stay in business.
This is how Google gets away with claiming they are not censoring content. The Liberty Conservative could have kept their piece published, but Google would not have paid them, and in turn, they would not have the money to pay their staff. This would have put The Liberty Conservative out of business. But technically, they could have kept the piece published.
This kind of censorship is known as "soft censorship."
Google also has the power to bury websites it doesn't like in search results.
A similar occurrence took place in the last month on Catholic Online. Google demanded the removal of several daily reading videos from YouTube because they were somehow deemed offensive. These videos were mere Bible readings from the Catholic lectionary. They contained no commentary or editorial. There was no homily or sermon. They were simply passages from the Bible.
Catholic Online was able to compromise and remove advertising from those videos, but the alternative was to either have their entire channel shut down, or be paid nothing from ad revenue as long as the videos were up. This has driven Catholic Online to develop an alternative media strategy for itself, which will be announced shortly.
The problem with these cases is that Google, a private corporation, is deciding what speech is acceptable in the public forum. That's because the public forum has moved from the newspaper and television and into cyberspace, but we have few laws which regulate cyberspace.
It is time for the U.S. federal government to enter cyberspace and set boundaries for Google and Facebook. This is common in other parts of the world where Google and Facebook already censor their content to order. People in countries like China use Google too, but Google censors their results to satisfy the demands of Chinese law.
Google could do the same in the U.S., but in reverse. They could be compelled to censor less content hosted in the United States as long as that content would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment. They could be banned from soft censorship.
Google and Facebook are monopolies, much like cable and electric companies. As such, they should be regulated to ensure the service they provide meets the expectations of a free and just society.
Few people like Nazis. Few people care to click into webpages emblazoned with swastikas. However, the same First Amendment that protects hateful content also protects content like daily Bible readings.
We the people ought to decide what is permissible in the public forum of ideas, not some private corporation. It's time to end soft censorship and intimidation by private firms, lest we find ourselves in some kind of Orwellian future where the only acceptable content are cat videos and Google-Southern Poverty Law Center approved propaganda.
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