Censorship of the church

Hello All,

If you agree with or not, the banning of President Trump from the major social media networks is a form of censorship. If they can do this to the President of United States, what is stopping them from doing it to churches or other organizations that are expressing their strongly held beliefs. That being said I am not typing this for a debate, but I was asked to find an alternative for live streaming beside Facebook. Also do to recent news, probably want to stay away from Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and probably more.

My general question: Is your church leadership concerned about censorship? Does anyone know of a company(ies) that are pro religious freedom that would welcome a conservative church live stream?

My final thought is that I am so thankful that God is in control even in these troubled times. God Bless!

Brian Clark

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There are multiple streaming services that work extremely well and embed right on your web site. YouTube and Facebook are private entities that owe us nothing. If they were to stop allowing us to stream we would just transition back to embedding on our page. I don’t see that happening, but I don’t see any problem with planning for possibilities.

This is a sensitive topic, but I do feel strongly about it.

I think it’s important to realize what freedom of speech is and isn’t. While a more thorough overview is provided at uscourts.gov - the abridged version is that freedom of speech prohibits laws to be made that makes illegal our individual right to express our individual opinion in our individual space.

Freedom of speech does not, nor has it ever, given one the right to demand space in another persons or organizations space - nor has it protected ones personal right to advocate for unlawful or violent behavior.

Furthermore, freedom of speech has never protected us from potential consequences of that speech - legal or social.

The first amendment was very well crafted, and has been well defended over the years.

Part of what makes the first amendment great is that it gives you the freedom to express your dissatisfaction with current events without fear of reprisal for those words - but it does so in a way that gives those around you freedom to choose if they are going to listen to those words, or give them space to propagate.

As we see words and emotions fly around, it’s important to remember that a decision by one party (example: a social media platform) to not allow space for something they do not wish to support (example: a person inciting violence) is not only fully within their rights, but does not constitute censorship by most definitions. It’s purely them exercising their own rights - equally protected in this country.

These protections of rights - the ability for one party to decide for themselves if they will or will not provide space for another party - is something that Christians, particularly conservative Christians - have fought very hard for over the past 60 years.

In short, the actions this week -whether you agree with them or not- are not censorship by any draconian definition. Nor do they seem to indicate any greater cause for alarm.

No new precedents are being set on the part of those enforcing their platform terms.

Regarding your question about concern w/r/t censorship: No. Our church leadership isn’t concerned about censorship.

In fact, if we are concerned about anything it’s how we project love that is wide and deep enough to touch everyone, no matter where they may find their opinions of current national events.

People are hurt. We can help.

Regarding your question about alternate platforms: as Chris already noted, these video delivery platforms have always graciously allowed us space. There is no reason to assume that will change anytime soon.

If our current acceptance on some public platforms ever does change, there will certainly be many more services to rise and take their place.

If that is a risk you don’t feel you can take, it continues to be possible to build your own platform upon your hardware in your data centers. Those tools and skillsets are readily available to you should you feel the need to do so.

I know there is a lot of emotion coming out this week. People are nervous, jumpy, and uncertain what will happen next. That’s understandable.

But as you said, God is in control.

Keep heart - The Future is Good.

-K

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Well, to be fair, it is “censorship” by definition, just not government censorship in the strictest sense that would be under the purview of the constitution. :wink:

As to the question, there are Parler and Bitchute which compete with Twitter and YouTube, but they aren’t prime-time per se. Broadcasting a sermon or videos you want to host on a website has no shortage of solutions, technically you can even play them directly from your own storage. :man_shrugging:

As for whether or not Christians will be targeted, that’s something that faithful Christians have faced for two-thousand years. We’ve always managed to work around it as it comes so I wouldn’t necessarily advocate a contingency just yet, let’s keep level heads and see just what evolves over the next few months before we go making any big moves. :thinking:

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At our church (https://www.risingbrook.org) we are using the Church Online Platform (https://churchonlineplatform.com) alongside YouTube Live at the moment. The plan is to move across completely to this in the near future as it give us better control over content, hosting and live feedback to prayer teams, etc.

I personally have an aversion to large multi-national tech companies who seem to arbitrarily invoke restrictions on individual’s rights to free speech. I’m not saying that I am I disagree with their actions, but that I don’t see a clear statement of policy on the subject, nor an even-handed application of that policy either. I do think that there is a significant tendency and risk for such large tech giants to be too politically correct and make decisions on the fly following popular opinion and clever manipulation by other political bodies.

I think our church is making the right move to the Church Online platform, but not necessarily for reasons based on the issues raised in this thread.

I think this thread starts off on a bad foot with the assumption that all censorship is bad. I believe most of us appreciate that YouTube makes an effort to avoid adult content and the portray of known-false information as factual. Without that, YouTube wouldn’t be nearly the resource that it is. In the USA, Advertising has been censored for decades to great positive effect.

As far as if the recent example is capricious, I don’t think the people who wrote the contracts at AWS really thought they were going to be dealing with acts of domestic terrorism so yeah, it wasn’t explicitly in the contract but it seems a perfectly reasonable action and consistent with their activity with 8chan and others. And frankly, if your church or any other organization is plotting to violently overthrow the government and blow up infrastructure I hope it’s an uphill battle.

52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

Matthew 26:52-54

As technologists, it’s our job to ensure whatever tools we use we are using appropriately and within their constraints. It’s also important to be aware of the redundancy and limitations of a service or solution and what we would do if that was no longer available. For example, many of us choose not to use or endorse the use of Google Workspace due to the Terms of Service that restrict hiring practices:

Your organization does not discriminate against any person or group of people in either hiring/employment practices or in the administration of programs and services, including on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The easy availability of free and easy streaming services, for example, have been a boon for small churches as the Pandemic has reduced or eliminated their members’ ability to safely attend service. But to expect a service to be freely given at scale with no restrictions? How many of us have walked past someone on the street begging for booze money because we couldn’t reconcile Matthew 5:42 with Matthew 11:18-11:19? And Amazon, Facebook, Twitter nor Google claim to be Christian organizations, so aren’t even held to the same high standard we are.

And if the pastor or speaker speaks on Acts 1 which contains the statement that homosexual activity is a sin. That violates most TOS of just about every organization that is a streaming service.

Or

Live performed music can be streamed, but if a singer chooses to use a performance CD is this a violation of a TOS. (Yes we had a live stream stopped/deleted via Facebook because of this)

I have been email services with questions like these (and will continue ) until I find one that gives a satisfactory answer. In the off chance I can’t find one I have started building a stream service, but I have to find a home for it.

Again if I offend anybody I am sorry it was not my intention, I am looking at streaming services large and small and was hoping for some advice and was trying to give context.

Just an FYI… our firm hosts servers of all types exclusively for Christian churches and ministries. The point of this discussion has always been a piece of our foundational purpose in serving only The Church.

Brian

There are multitudes of streaming services that are built from the foundation up with churches in mind. Most of them have rebranded to appeal to a larger audience but they continue to have a mission to work with churches. Great examples are Resi and Boxcast. While you can use those to send to places like YouTube or Facebook, the answer is that if you want to avoid being subject to their TOS then don’t go there. Embed the stream from a service you like directly into your website or a wrapper like Church Online.

The internet has always treated censorship as damage and routed around it.

That said, the rules and rights that allow facebook and twitter to “curate their product” are the same ones that allow churches and believers to say what they believe and not be compelled to violate those beliefs. It cuts both ways.

We should be very wary of any attempts to curtail this by law.

I think the question I think should be somewhat different. We have censorship anyway: film certificates, restrictions on games, drinking of alcohol, libel, slander, defamation & discrimination laws, etc. The question is: why do such restrictions exist? The short answer is they do damage to another PERSON that is unnecessary and unwarranted.

We also have laws of censorship in relation to what people publish through the media. Thus there are constraints on newspapers, broadcaster, etc. who on the whole are left to self-regulate what they publish, but are slammed with the full force of the law when they fail to appropriately edit the information they broadcast. Facebook, Twitter, Google and other Social Media platforms have shown in the last few years that they actively edit (although crudely) the content that is published on their platforms. They therefore have inadvertently fallen into the category of being publishers/broadcasters who actively control (by human or algorithm intervention) the content that is published/broadcast on their platforms. Should they not therefore be subject to the same standards, laws and expectations that the traditional publishers & broadcasters must live by?

Yes, there is always the risk to the church and believers because the message we preach is anathema to non-believers. However, we do have the defence of our right to believe and preach by virtue of the International Convention of Human Rights.

You are right, things work both ways. However, we must choose our battles wisely.

No, this is an incorrect interpretation of the definitions of those words. Curation of posts by others is simply not the same thing as writing their own stuff or commissioning work. Twitter holds liability, for example, for the things they post as @twitter, but not for the stuff some random user posts regardless of whether they moderate content.

This very forum has moderation, and moderation is inherently a good thing. Unless, of course, you think it’s a good thing to amplify spam, violence, abuse and a myriad of other things I’d personally remove from this site.

My apologies if I have incorrectly misinterpreted any meaning of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. I am a UK Citizen living in the UK and our laws here are different, so I apologise for any misunderstanding as Section 230 does not have trans-national jurisdiction so does not have application in the UK.

In the UK curation means the organising of works. Editing is the selection (addition/deletion/changing) of content. Thus all broadcasters and publishers by definition ‘edit’. So in the UK (and to a similar extent in the EU), if Twitter (or any other organisation) purely provides the ‘channel’ through which content of various kinds are funnelled and it provides the means to find, organise and present that content, it is a Communications Service Providers like AT&T, the Bell companies or ISPs in the US. E.g. they do not care about what the content is, they just provide the channel to move that content from one place to another.

However, in the case in point - Twitter have revoked a user’s account thus ‘editing/censoring’ that person and all their content. As soon as Twitter (or any other Social Media owner) selectively chooses whether or not to allow a certain post, or post-er (e.g. Donald Trump) they immediately fall into the category of Broadcaster &/or Publisher and are subject to the relevant Standards and Regulations. Twitter, FaceBook, Google and others have fallen into that trap in the last few years. So long as they succumb to public/political pressure to have influence or control over whether or not to transmit 3rd party content, they are actively engaging in censorship (as far as the UK/EU ar concerned).

I have no issue with moderation, in fact I think it is a good thing. In a closed group such as this, moderation is important to maintain good order and fair discussion. However, that moderation is allowed by the mutual consent of all of us participating within this forum.

The fundamental question I felt was being asked is “Who has the right to censor?” and “What are the Standards by which such censorship is exercised?”. I have the right to choose what I listen to or watch. The government has the right to appoint censors and Standards of censorship (as they appear to have done with Section 230) with the intent of protecting the greater good of the American people. As for any 3rd party selecting to block or ‘censor’ content on a platform, they need as a minimum the implied consent of the majority of the platform user-base to do so.

So going back to the original question posted right at the beginning, all the platforms mentioned in the original posting (FaceBook, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft) require that in order to use their streaming platforms, he and his church leadership must agree to the terms & conditions of usage including any potential majority-influenced ‘censorship’ of their stream. Some of these platforms have automated censorship filters for copyright breach of musical content, which automatically cut the stream feed if it recognises suspected copyright breach. Here in the UK, I have picked up several instances of this occurring with churches who use backing tracks, pad systems or whose bands host live production are just so good as to sound like Hillsong or Bethel and their feeds are auto-cut. This occurs even though they have ALL the relevant licenses and permissions in place (usually via CCLI) to use and broadcast the material that caused the stream to be cut.

Thus my earlier post in this thread proposed the use of the Church Online platform, which is pro-christian and not subject to the controls of the afore-mentioned big players.

These services (as far as this topic go) are governed by US’s Section 230 regulations even in the EU thanks to the 2000 eCommerce Directive because in the EU they are merely providing a conduit to the US hosted content.

They are, in fact, however, bound to remove certain posts and posters under the agreements formed under the Audiovisual Media Services Directive of 2018 which requires removal of any content which incites violence, hatred and terrorism - the reasons that particular account was removed in the US.

Who has the right to censor? The one footing the bill, and the one who’s running the service. Nothing stops you from grabbing a couple of servers and sticking them in the closet to host whatever you want, but nothing requires me to take your money to do that for you. I’m sure ChOP has a line in the sand somewhere too that they aren’t willing to host, and it lines up a lot with a lot of the FANG companies’ policies. There are a lot of things out there that refer to themselves as churches that we wouldn’t necessarily want to facilitate.