Big Tech’s Big Bias: Religious Conservatives face ‘Scary Pattern’ of Censorship

The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing Oct. 28 to discuss Section 230 and censorship concerns with CEOs (clockwise from top right) Sundar Pichai of Google; Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook; and Jack Dorsey of Twitter.
The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing Oct. 28 to discuss Section 230 and censorship concerns with CEOs (clockwise from top right) Sundar Pichai of Google; Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook; and Jack Dorsey of Twitter. (photo: C-SPAN/public domain)

By Jonathan Liedl at the National Catholic Register:

When an Oct. 14 New York Post story featuring potentially damaging claims against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was suppressed by Twitter and Facebook, questions of Big Tech censorship were propelled into the national conversation. 

For some voters, it may have been the first time such concerns were considered. But for religious conservatives who use social media as a place to share their views and convictions, the New York Post incident was merely a high-profile reinforcement of a truth experienced on a regular basis: Big Tech companies wield unprecedented control over public discourse and have a tendency to censor viewpoints not shared by the Silicon Valley progressives who own and operate them.

In fact, the day after the New York Post incident, pro-life advocacy group Susan B. Anthony List ran afoul of moderators at Facebook. A third-party fact-checker employed by the social-media giant had concluded that ads detailing Joe Biden’s position on late-term abortions included “debunked” claims, preventing them from reaching voters in battleground states Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

After pushback, the fact-checker eventually retracted its claim and apologized, and the ads were allowed to run. But, in a sense, the damage was already done. In the lead-up to a presidential election when every moment matters, one pro-life perspective had been muzzled from the public conversation.

SBA List contends that these kinds of incidents of perceived censorship are part of a longer pattern, which has included everything from relegating medically accurate videos on abortion to the bottom of search results to permanently banning a pro-life group’s account after its content was mislabeled as “porn.” 

According to Mallory Quigley, SBA List’s vice president for communications, the effect is that pro-life advocates need to work twice as hard as their abortion-promoting counterparts. Not only do they have to do the hard work of legislative advocacy, but Quigley says she and her colleagues “need to constantly look over our shoulder to make sure our communications are still outgoing.”

Thus, the problem facing the pro-life movement isn’t one of finding the right message to move hearts and minds. Quigley believes the cause already has done that and says that pro-lifers “have absolutely nothing to fear from increased conversation around abortion and what it is.” Instead, it’s an issue of actually being able to have those conversations in the first place, on online forums that operate effectively as the public square yet have decidedly private and even partisan biases.

Specific Issues

The biases of Big Tech might manifest themselves in censorship of viewpoints on particular issues like abortion, but they’re grounded in something far more fundamental. Even a cursory look at the makeup of these entities reveals a monolithic culture that is uneasy, if not downright hostile, towards the worldview of religious conservatives.

A Stanford Business study found that technology executives hold overwhelmingly progressive views on contentious social issues, such as support for same-sex civil marriage (96%) and abortion rights (79%). In the 2016 presidential election, Silicon Valley employees donated 60 times more cash to Democratic contender Hillary Clinton than Republican Donald Trump, while Big Tech workers have given 90% of their political donations to Democrats in the 2020 election cycle. 

In terms of prevailing views on faith, half of tech workers identify as atheist or agnostic, compared to only 7% of the general population. A 2018 exposé described Silicon Valley as a “young atheist’s world,” where prayer is mocked and religion is largely considered irrational.

Troy Miller, president of National Religious Broadcasters, says the result is a “scary pattern” of public discourse being manipulated by “ultimate gatekeepers,” who in no way, shape or form are representative of society as a whole. 

NRB, an association of Christian communicators, has documented instances of social-media censorship of conservative religious views going back a decade. The list includes everything from the 2010 removal of a Christian app reaffirming “the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife” from the Apple app store after it was determined to “be offensive to large groups of people” to the removal of a podcast that claimed Jesus is the only Lord and Savior.

And even if instances of social-media censorship have more to do with algorithmic errors than intentional human animus, this may only be a reflection that the programming guiding the conversation on Big Tech platforms itself displays systemic discrimination.

“There is bias baked into the system,” explains Seth Dillon, the CEO of The Babylon Bee, a satirical Christian conservative site with a long history of run-ins with social-media censorship. “The employees are biased, the coding that they’re writing reflects their bias, and a lot of the decisions that they’re making, whether conscious or not, are reflecting that bias.”

Deeper Concerns

As a result, many Catholics and other Christians are concerned that the limitations progressive social-media platforms place on speech won’t stop with public-policy issues.

“Any censorship and persecution on the part of Big Tech that’s being faced by the pro-life movement will impact the Church,” said SBA List’s Quigley. “We’ve got plenty of ideas, as Catholics and as pro-life Americans, that aren’t necessarily popular in this day and age, so we have to stay vigilant and need to educate our fellow Americans about this type of censorship.

Sohrab Ahmari, op-ed editor of the New York Post and an prominent Catholic commentator, described what happened to his own newspaper as a “sinister” example of progressives’ power to suppress dissenting views, which should serve as a warning to Catholics.

“The Church is always the enemy of these forces,” Ahmari told the Registerin an exclusive interview. “So why wouldn’t they seek to silence bishops, Catholic outlets … or just your average layperson who posts on Church teaching on controversial issues?”

Given the confluence of bias and influence exercised by social media, which 79% of American adults use in some way, Miller believes issues even greater than free speech are in play, especially in a country suffering from toxic levels of divisiveness.

“If we silence one group, history shows us, that’s when bad things happen,” he said. “That’s when groups start to be persecuted. Nothing good can come from that.”

Possible Solutions

Religious conservatives aren’t necessarily helpless in the face of Big Tech censorship. 

For instance, Dillon says The Babylon Bee overcame two recent instances of restrictions placed on their social-media accounts: in August, the outlet had Twitter reverse course after its account was suspended “out of nowhere,” apparently because a filter had identified it as spam. Last week, the Babylon Bee successfully appealed Facebook’s decision to demonetize their page, after the social-media company claimed that a satirical comparison between Democrats’ treatment of then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to a well-known comedic movie scene about a witch trial had the potential to “incite violence.”

But Dillon says the social-media giants didn’t necessarily step back their restrictions because he provided a compelling argument for why his content shouldn’t be censored. In fact, he says Facebook maintained its decision after his initial appeal and a human review of that case. Instead, he had to resort to a different tactic.

“We go public with this stuff when it happens to make everyone aware of it, and we’ve found that is the only way we get a result,” said Dillon. 

Therefore, Dillon’s concerned not only that more secular satire sites like The Onion don’t have to deal with the censorship the Bee faces, but also that conservative voices with less clout are unable to draw attention to their own experiences of censorship in order to put market pressure on Big Tech. 

This dynamic highlights an important reality: Despite the fact that social-media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google-owned YouTube play a dramatic and unprecedented role in shaping public discourse, they’re ultimately private companies. Strictly speaking, they have no legal obligation to provide “equal opportunity” to differing perspectives and can manage their content as they see fit.

As a result, there’s significant conversation on Capitol Hill about possible measures to address perceived Big Tech censorship. One area of focus is Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields internet entities like Twitter and Facebook from liabilities normally associated with content publishers. The law at the time understood these entities, effectively, as “bulletin boards,” forums where users shared content and the proprietor has the capacity to remove offensive content.

Critics say the law as written is unable to account for the way giant social-media platforms operate today. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has emerged as a leading critic of the measure and has introduced legislation to limit immunities included in Section 230. Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai has also indicated that the FCC intends to revisit Section 230 as part of that body’s rulemaking powers “to clarify its meaning.”

Hearings revolving around Section 230 and censorship concerns were held on Capitol Hill Wednesday, with Facebook, Google and Twitter CEOs testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee, though, as CNBC reported, “All three CEOs denied that they engage in censorship.”

“Social-media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech,” FCC Chairman Pai said in a recent statement. “But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”

Another possible avenue of curbing Big Tech’s control over public discourse: anti-trust charges. Reports indicate that the Federal Trade Commission could officially make the case that Facebook exercises a de facto monopoly in its industry as soon as November. 

Differing Perspectives

Rick Garnett, a law professor at Notre Dame Law School, said he is concerned about the way Big Tech shapes, and possibly even distorts, “the marketplace of ideas.” But the Catholic scholar also said he worries that relying upon government intervention to remedy the situation could inadvertently lead to new forms of censorship.

“The cure could be worse than the disease,” said Garnett. “We don’t want to adopt even well-intentioned speech regulations that could have the effect of privileging the status quo or disadvantaging dissenting and minority views.”

Given the pluralistic context of the contemporary U.S., Garnett said he prefers a government that remains as neutral as possible on questions of free speech, not because neutrality is an ultimate value, but because it’s a “second-best strategy” that gives room for people to “disagree reasonably about controversial questions.” He encourages Catholics and others facing censorship to be vocal and put pressure on Big Tech platforms, suggesting that if these platforms don’t respond appropriately, market forces would give rise to new platforms “that didn’t engage in the same partisan censorship.”

Ahmari of the New York Post, however, doesn’t think that market forces alone will be effective and actually said he believes that government correction is required as a matter of justice. Citing classical theorists like Cicero, he said that Big Tech firms are acting as “private tyrannies,” with deleterious effects for free speech and, therefore, the common good.

“We need a political response, and not just a market response,” he said, arguing that social-media giants are acting politically when they censor speech. “Politics is architectonic; it shapes and determines everything else. And so we can’t leave these various realms of life to the vagaries of high-tech billionaires who happen to be woke and lefty.”

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3 Responses to Big Tech’s Big Bias: Religious Conservatives face ‘Scary Pattern’ of Censorship

  1. Reblogged this on Zero Lift-Off and commented:
    False Gods & Cleaver Deceptions
    Once I read that corporations are like demons and sort of agreed with that concept but passed it off being too busy to delve into that idea at the time to find out if there was substantial truth to that statement. Now after more life experience and observation of many related truths happening right before our eyes I see how that idea is rock solid when we just look at Big Pharma and what it actually has become with its constant bombardment on TV and elsewhere with promotions for one drug or another for this ache or pain, and, look how we now have an opioid crisis with people dying left and right from addition with so many families ruined because of these individuals becoming overwhelmed by these habit forming narcotics. Many other drugs that people are brainwashed into using daily have very serious side effects over time that ruin health and not the other way around; then requiring still additional drugs being taken in the daily regimen that further damage the body and or mind. While this is happening many of these individuals lose capabilities and interests, even falling out of touch with family, but, more devastating than even that, some lose their faith. I see this simply as Big Pharma are nothing but one of the biggest money making rackets on the planet, and, now even a better tool to defeat the masses or countries from within, not requiring any hostile takeover such as armed conflict and war. Indeed this COVID 19 Pandemic with subsequent lock-downs and altering of societal behavior to conform to new controls on a global scale the New World Order is precisely what I’m speaking about here! Big Pharma are Big Drug Pushers, and, most if not all the behind the scenes individuals running it are part of a huge network or as I see it a manufacturing/distribution organized crime syndicate getting away with highway robbery and murder on a global scale. Demons we wonder; sure they look like demons and to me they are certainly an antichrist entity out to subdue, control, ruin and destroy countless lives and ultimately souls. With this type of culture at work around the planet with absolutely secularism running rampant, promoting and being facilitated by Big Tech now every second of every day on a massive scale not promoting, God or anything to do with Him, but, rather “faith in technology” as God, and, Government coupled with High Tech being our true savior, the ways of the world and man himself are the only thing this side of heaven that can help us and do us any good, so what do you think would be the mission of such earthly power in the hands of the few those with the controlling influence like these Tech Giant CEO’s who are to me some of the most vile atheist antichrist minions calling themselves human progressives but are not; like a Bill Gates or Jack Dorsey CEO of Twitter promoting wicked political figures like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and in so doing proves to me they are absolutely antichrist earthly minions working not for our good but for the bottom line and not just the corporate one but for the Devil’s bottom-line and his plan to devour all the souls he can; which goal we see he has a leg up on Big-Time now that Big Tech is the most useful device that it’s become to influence and control; along with nonreligious mindsets fused with using pharmaceuticals daily making for the coming of a planet of walking dead zombies out of more and more humans daily! Walking Dead, not just like in Sci-Fi humans with no minds, but, most important no love or faith in God anymore and dead in Christ Jesus; the only true answer that there ever was or will be to save any human being’s soul from eternal damnation! Now hoards of humans are flocking to this new God and signing on doing and even becoming what it preaches to them! Like BLM or ANTIFA mobs backed Corporations, acting like stupid, destructive, heartless, soulless morons carrying out missions of defiant, rebellious destruction and mayhem for their master! Folks look around its simple to see we are on the precipice and the human race is heading-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket faster than we can say lickety-split! So many individuals are now poisoned by this false culture’s venom of lies, or clever deceptions, and, won’t even listen to anything about God and Jesus, just plain outright atheists that are perfect to play into the hands of monster, demonic, totalitarian, atheistic government machines like the CCP that tells the small numbers of Christians within the population of billions in China, to give up Jesus and God, or you don’t eat or get any housing anymore. And, of course we know that is just the tip of the iceberg, because hidden there in that totalitarian country are the many cases were individuals are rounded up and never seen again; snuffed out for what they believe in or say. Folks we are facing a rapid decline of humanity into an abyss of sin, and, human abortion, was and still is the “canary in the mine-shaft” warning, but, not enough listened or cared to stop that movement dead in its tracks, so now, we see the consequences of not paying heed to a blatant in your face warning, such as the annihilation or snuffing-out of purely innocent almost perfect, “the unborn humans,” like they are just excess tissue to be disposed of ,and, that in fact is what Planned Parenthood had and I’m sure still tells many females who are deciding to abort. I’m positive God is so done with this mess on the one hand, and, the human race in general terms! He would have ended this whole God forsaken mess already if it wasn’t for people like you and me that do not give into this evil circling in all around us, but, instead proclaim the name of Jesus Christ daily, denouncing all of these sins and atrocities, calling them out, being willing to pray and do the Lord’s will to the very end. Like the Saints and Martyrs have done throughout the ages and still do; I think of Joan of Arc as she was being burned alive crying out “Jesus” and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that she committed her heart to “Jesus Christ” all the way to the very painful end! She became a stark message and proclamation of what is happening in this fallen wicked world; serving to tell us all to take care and go the right way! This one example of which there are so many more throughout time proves to me on its face that God is real, and, Jesus Christ was and is who He claimed to be, so there is no contest here; you either turn to Him God Almighty in the name of and through His Son Jesus Christ; and plan on joining Them in heaven for eternity, or you can have the consequence of being doomed to the eternal pits of hell. This is the only reason God the Almighty hasn’t snuffed out this whole God forsaken mess yet, because of course there are still many of us worth saving here that He won’t give up on! And so like the one lost lamb that the Good Shepherd went searching for and found bringing it back home into the fold; that is what our loving Jesus is doing now, gathering us up to be brought home before it’s too late and the demons move in and with the Devil devour all those that didn’t want to be bothered and preferred being zombies!
    Brother in Christ Jesus
    Lawrence Morra III
    Psalm 133
    A song of ascents. Of David.
    Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
    2 It is like the precious oil upon the head,
    running down upon the beard,
    upon the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
    3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
    For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
    life for evermore.
    biblegateway.com Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
    Commentary for Psalms 133
    The excellency of brotherly love.

    – “We cannot say too much, it were well if enough could be said, to persuade people to live together in peace. It is good for us, for our honour and comfort; and brings constant delight to those who live in unity. The pleasantness of this is likened to the holy anointing oil. This is the fruit of the Spirit, the proof of our union with Christ, and adorns his gospel. It is profitable as well as pleasing; it brings blessings numerous as the drops of dew. It cools the scorching heat of men’s passions, as the dews cool the air and refresh the earth. It moistens the heart, and makes it fit to receive the good seed of the word, and to make it fruitful. See the proof of the excellency of brotherly love: where brethren dwell together in unity, the Lord commands the blessing. God commands the blessing; man can but beg a blessing. Believers that live in love and peace, shall have the God of love and peace with them now, and they shall shortly be with him forever, in the world of endless love and peace. May all who love the Lord forbear and forgive one another, as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven them.”

    Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710. kingjamesbibleonline.org

    Like

  2. Crow says:

    This article highlights two issues – the first is the portrayal of the relevant ‘woke’ groups as underprivileged and disadvantaged- they are part of big business and the elite. It is, of course, a time-honoured mechanism if socialist discourse to grab hold of an issue or a group and portray them as victims. The second is the monopoly the big companies have. I have heard of alternatives such as Patreon but they didn’t seem to go anywhere. Why is it impossible for other companies to compete? As the article says, it is not the complete answer, but it is part-answer. If we have nowhere to go then we are subject to their rules. Legislation is a danger, as observed in being abused and utilised by the oppressors: just take a look at those dreadful ‘mission statements ‘ and ‘codes of conduct’ that corporations implement at the behest of some colourless person who pushes it by a version of ‘equality’ that is so obvious everyone agrees. Then who uses it? The claimed ‘victim’ as a club to bully everyone into compliance with their social agenda. It would be good if we had a Catholic tech company!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s looking more and more like our backs are up against the proverbial wall with the way things are going! Like the old saying “too little too late” may be the circumstance and a sad analogy may be like the fisherman catching a big fish will allow the quarry to have enough line and feel it’s doing so well taking that bait fish then suddenly a sudden powerful heave by the fisherman to sink the big hook in deep with no hope of escape from that point on. The poor fish if aware of the ulterior motive of the fisherman would have wanted to spit out that bait with its hidden doom hidden within; but it was hungry and living in the moment of present concerns. What we are experiencing now as a society was planned out many decades ago, with a plan like the strategy of Chinese CCP looking way down the road to eventual conquest of its enemies, no thinking about instant gratification but the long term goals always taking precedent; just the way the Devil has calculated his moves. The good news in all of this is we know that in End Time from prophecy that impending doom would be prevalent and when things would be looking hopeless that is when Jesus will return and everything will change! For now things are going to get a lot worse than they are already. But, there are good signs and actions that are moving in the right direction like the US Embassy having been moved to Jerusalem and the major peace accord developments taking place right now! This is still a battle between good and evil not just hell on earth yet! We have hope and must never give up on that hope!

    Liked by 2 people

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