A new report from the Napa Legal Institute has revealed the full extent of big-tech censorship of Christians. It details the growing attitude of hostility towards faith-based views and organizations in large tech companies, and urges “decisive” actions by faith leaders to confront this new culture.
The report, compiled by the Napa Legal Institute and published last week, alleges that since the beginning of the year, religious organizations and individuals have been censored on social media at a rate of roughly once a week. You can read the full report here.
While many of these actions have gone relatively unnoticed, some have risen to the status of national news. Among them was Amazon’s removal of Ryan T. Anderson’s book When Harry Became Sally, which challenged progressive orthodoxy on transgender issues. Amazon deleted the book from their catalogue and refused to reverse the decision, despite widespread backlash by conservatives and Christians. They later doubled down on the ban, saying they have “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.”
In practice, that standard gives Amazon a blanket justification to censor any content that presents the traditional Christian view of gender and sex. Whether or not they follow through on their new policy, the existence of such a policy puts any faith-based publisher or author in a position of suspicion, especially if they write on LGBT issues. This new policy is particularly concerning for Christians given Amazon’s control of the publishing market – by some estimates, as many as 80% of book sales go through Amazon.
As the report shows, the censorship culture extends far beyond Amazon. In February, Twitter suspended the account of Catholic bishop Kevin Doran after he attacked the practice of “assisted suicide,” which is officially condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. The tweet that led to Bishop Doran’s suspension read, in part, “Assisted suicide, where it is practiced, is not an expression of freedom or dignity, but of the failure of a society to accompany people on their ‘way of the cross.’“
His account was eventually restored after a month, but others have suffered permanent consequences. LifeSiteNews, a pro-life news outlet, had their YouTube account permanently banned, removing their catalogue of over 2,000 videos. They had amassed over 300,000 subscribers over the course of a decade, before being abruptly banned.
Other pro-life groups have also been targeted. The Susan B. Anthony List was deplatformed by Facebook during the run-up to the presidential election, preventing ads revealing Democratic candidate’s positions on abortion from reaching voters. Facebook alleged that, according to a 3rd party “fact-checker,” they were spreading “debunked” information on late-term abortions. After receiving public backlash, Facebook apologized and allowed some of the ads to run again.
In early March, Instagram permanently suspended the Catholic Connectaccount, alleging “copyright infringement.” Instagram has neither reversed the suspension nor explained their reasoning, despite coverage in Catholic media and an appeal by Catholic Connect.
Many of the cases tracked by the Napa Legal Institute result in permanent suspensions, but in some cases the results are reversed. Though censorship may be increasing, many Christians are actively fighting back and, in some cases, winning. The Napa Legal Institute states that “Big Tech's unpredictable de-platforming of faith-based organizations and their leaders has become so frequent that faith-based organizations can no longer rely on continuous service from these companies, particularly social media providers. Faith leaders must respond decisively to the changed landscape.”
Although sometimes our first impulse is to screen companies out of our invest portfolio or to boycott the products, Christians should consider a “salt and light” approach in which they use their relationships with these companies to be an influence for good. One of the ways to “respond decisively” is through corporate engagement. Many of the companies responsible for the censorship are large, publicly traded companies. What that means in practice is that their shares are widely held by Americans, either directly or indirectly. Consider contacting your financial advisor or the mutual fund or ETF you are invested in to see if you are invested in these companies.
If so, consider your options for engaging with these corporations, whether that be reaching out to their investor relations department, contacting the fund you are invested in to let them know how you would like your shares to be voted, or voting your shares directly. “Proxy season,” in which many of the largest publicly traded companies in America hold their annual shareholder meetings, is fast approaching, which means there is ample opportunity for investors to engage on these issues. Even if you are not an investor, you can still reach out to the customer service departments of these companies, which are often easy to find and use on social media.
We reached out to the Napa Legal Institute for comment and will be publishing their responses in a separate article.
Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”