NRB Concerned About New Media Speech Policies

National Religious Broadcasters says it needs to have a dialogue with new media companies about the potential for censorship of religious speech, but suggests it is not looking for a religious version of network neutrality rules.

According to an analysis released at a press conference in Washington Thursday and conducted by Craig Parshall, SVP and general counsel of NRB, "Christian ideas and other religious content face a clear and present danger of censorship on web-based communication platforms."

That was the conclusion of a study of iTunes App Store; Facebook; MySpace; Google; Twitter; and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. Of those, only Twitter would pass First Amendment muster if judged by traditional Supreme Court free speech principle, said the group. "All of the other new media platforms and service providers have written policies in place that violate fundamental rules of free expression, particularly as applied to religious free speech," it said.

NRB cites various policies against "undesirable content" and "hate speech," the latter which NRB calls "a dangerously undefined and politically correct term that is often applied in the culture to stifle Christian communicators."

The report says key issues are what it sees as: "(1) the past practices of anti-Christian censorship among some of these platforms; (2) free speech-inhibiting policies that facilitate censorship and which are already in place among almost all of the web-based communications companies reviewed here; (3) both market-driven and self-interest motivations for these companies to impose viewpoint censorship; and (4) the trend toward technological convergence of these platforms, which will further entrench their discriminatory practices and/or policies."

NRB said it is not looking for litigation, legislation or regulation, at least not at the outset. "The best course of action is for new media platforms to recognize that with the enormous economic benefits that they have realized with their innovations in communications technology, also comes a great responsibility to the American people to facilitate their freedom of expression."

NRB did not try to talk with the companies before releasing its report's concerns and allegations.

"After unveiling our report, we will be contacting each of the media entities mentioned in our report," said Parshall. "With the exception of Twitter -- we hope to dialogue with each of them (including the telecom Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Comcast, AT&T and Verizon) regarding the problems in their practices and/or policies that we identify in our report and encourage them to voluntarily take a position much more conducive to religious free speech."

NRB says it represents Christian radio and TV and networks; Christian webcasters, book publishers, churches, Christian relief and social service organizations and charities, public policy groups, public relations firms and marketers.

John Eggerton

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.