NRB Seeks Censorship Answers from Zuckerberg

As the Hill prepares to grill Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at a pair of hearings this week, the National Religious Broadcasters want them to press him on what NRB says is a growing problem on censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints by Big Tech, including Facebook.

Zuckerberg is in the Hill hot seat over revelations that the information from millions of Facebook users--at least 50 million and perhaps more than 87 million--was shared with Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that built profiles and sold them to political campaigns, including Donald Trump's.

NRP President Dr. Jerry Johnson offered up some questions he would like asked and answered, including whether edge provider block content they don't like and how it defines hate speech.

NRB wants Facebook to come up with a standard for free speech and freedom of religion on its site.

Related: Net Neutrality Reg Rollback Riles Religious Groups

Here are the questions Johnson wants asked at the hearings.

• "In November, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that edge providers “routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like.” How do you respond to this serious charge?

• "A Catholic university’s ad with a picture of the historic San Damiano Cross was rejected by Facebook over Easter. Thankfully, Facebook corrected the action within a few days. Still, that it happened at all is deeply disturbing, especially since it’s only one of many similar cases of censorship. What was so “shocking, sensational, or excessively violent” about the ad to cause it to be initially censored?

• "Is Facebook a public square? If so, what obligation does that place on Facebook regarding censorship of viewpoints on its platform?

• "'Hate speech' can be a nebulous term, but a very serious accusation. How do you define it, do you rely upon outside organizations in making such evaluations (if so, which), and what are examples of where you may draw the line between what is and is not hate speech?

• "Why not proactively delineate a community standard for free speech and free exercise of religion on your platform that is nothing less than that guaranteed by the First Amendment? That standard, refined by centuries of American jurisprudence, would enable the rightful blocking of content that threatens violence or spews obscenity, without trampling on the openness and freedom your company publicly embraces. As an American company operating in this space of speech, why “re-invent the wheel”?

NRB last December launched to draw attention to what it says is censorship at edge providers, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple. It says none have formally responded.

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.