Concerned that social media companies are unduly inhibiting
legal speech, the National Religious Broadcasters have proposed a Free Speech
Charter for the Internet that proposes that new media companies like Google and
Apple and Facebook confine their content restrictions to traditionally
unprotected speech: obscenity (and indecency), fraud, incitement to violence
and unlawful conduct.
"The free speech liberty of citizens who use the Internet
is nearing a crisis point," says the charter. "New media companies
who function as 'gatekeepers' to their Web platforms and devices...have
consistently censored on their sites the speech of Christians and others when
they communicate on issues of widespread public concern."
At a press conference to announce the charter last week, NRB
President Dr. Frank Wright said that private enterprise is "now becoming
an engine of constraining speech." Wright said the group was not looking
to boycott anyone. Instead, he said, "the free marketplace of ideas will
always serve a free republic best."
He said the charter was a framework for how to deal with
speech issues in the digital age.
NRB has consistently expressed concerns about the
suppression of speech in opposition to gay marriage or abortion as hate speech.
But while NRB said the government is sometimes guilty of trying
to overregulate speech, it does not include indecency regs in that definition.
The charter recommends Internet companies be free to impose the equivalent of
broadcast indecency regs for content accessible to minors.
In September 2011, NRBsaid it needed to have a dialogue with new media companies about the
potential for censorship of religious speech, but Wright said that hasn't
happened and the situation has not improved.
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.