REPORT: the small print in big tech community guidelines targets faith-based users for censorship

A new report from the Napa Legal Institute revealed that hidden in the small print of the community guidelines and user agreements are details that are used by tech companies and social media platforms to censor and remove religious organizations for “hateful conduct” that is actually an expression of beliefs that do not conform to liberal values.

The report looked at 25 major companies and subsidiaries, finding that 21 have user agreements that could easily and inappropriately be used against religious groups. By using intentionally vague language, the companies  “claim unilateral power to ban religious groups for advocating constitutionally-protected viewpoints not shared by the company.”

“This power goes well beyond prohibitions on illegal activity, which has historically been the primary focus of most user agreements,” the report stated. “Now companies reserve the right to kick organizations off their platforms for supporting traditional marriage, opposing abortion, questioning transgenderism, or holding any other belief currently out of cultural or political favor with Silicon Valley. More than a third of the companies we surveyed have already exercised that power at least once, based on Napa Legal’s research.

The problem is serious as Napa Legal claims that faith-based organizations have been de-platformed at a rate of one per week since the beginning of the year.

The institute claimed that Twitter was one of the worst offenders. The report cited a case in which Focus on the Family, an evangelical group, saw its Twitter account locked after the group retweeted an article expressing concern for religious liberty in light of federal transgender policies.

The problem of arbitrary censorship based on subjective judgments is prevalent among other internet-based services necessary to the operations of a large organization. MailChimp, a marketing platform with 11 million customers reaching an audience of 4 billion people, is a tool for handling large mailing lists.  Its user agreement says: “We may suspend or terminate your account” for using the company’s platforms to distribute “hateful content” or content “that, in our sole judgment, could be reasonably perceived” to harass, intimidate, abuse, or discriminate. Babylon Bee, a conservative Christian satire publisher, was temporarily banned by the company under this policy.

Apple banned an app by Living Hope Ministries after it was criticized by LGBT groups. Google recently banned an app by an Idaho church, because the company’s policy prohibits “hate speech” toward anyone with a “characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.”

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