Google welcome sign via wikicommons

Can Google Silence the Church?

on December 11, 2015

Whether we’re talking about the redefinition of marriage or taxpayer funded abortion and contraception, one question is crossing many Christians’ minds: where will the next challenge to religious liberty arise? Among some, there is a growing concern that the next threat to religious liberty will be a cyber showdown.

That was one area of concern addressed by Joe Carter, communications specialist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and editor for the Gospel Coalition blog, during his lecture at the Family Research Center (FRC) on December 10. After an inspiring presentation on various strategies necessary to defend religious liberty, concern over online threats to freedom arose during the following Q&A.

“Where do you see our biggest potential threat to religious liberty on the internet side of things as far as corporately-owned websites — not just websites — but platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google?,” asked one member of the FRC audience. “And will anybody even hear about it if our freedoms in that area are removed?”

The audience member’s question nodded towards recent comments made by Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

“We should build tools to help de-escalate tensions on social media – sort of like spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment,” wrote Schmidt in an op-ed published by the New York Times. “Without this type of leadership from government, from citizens, from tech companies, the internet could become a vehicle for further disaggregation of poorly built societies, and the empowerment of the wrong people, and the wrong voices.”

Schmidt’s op-ed focused heavily on terrorist recruitment and other activity, but as the audience member noted, “That could easily be extrapolated over to any kind of religious speech.”

Carter agreed that corporately-owned websites whose board and share-holders largely oppose Christian values could employ algorithms which block our message. “We focus right now on the individual privacy, freedom of speech issues,” Carter explained. “But it’s going to get to the point where our message isn’t even seen by anybody and we can’t even get our message out there because the algorithms are blocking it.”

There is still time to prevent this future threat to religious liberty from becoming serious, says Carter. “We still have a lot of power over Twitter and Facebook, but if we wait too long we might lose the advantage we have to do something.”

Carter particularly urged Christians with technological skills to take the lead and develop alternative search engines and social media platforms “so when Facebook blocks us out we can have somewhere else to go.”

Carter also reminded Christians that we have the benefit of evangelization. He encouraged Christians to build connections and personal relationships with those working in technology or in Silicon Valley. That way, our techy friends can see for themselves that our message isn’t one of hate, but truth in love.

I’m thankful for Carter’s thoughtful optimism and encouragement of innovation in the religious liberty debate. And hey, if these social media threats come to fruition, well, that’s certainly one way to rouse Millennial Christians to defend and protect religious liberty. Imagine the uproar…and Tweets…and, oh, the many, many hashtags.

  1. Comment by MarcoPolo on December 12, 2015 at 8:50 am

    I would certainly hope, that in a free society like America, we never lose the opportunity to have our voices heard. Be they Religious, or Secular, our collective freedoms must be defended.
    Keep up the good work, Chelsen!

  2. Comment by Nonbeliever on December 14, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Try doing searches on google right now where you try to search for negative data on any of the LGBT cult. In some cases I have had to go many pages before I found alternative data. Your search has to be really specific, otherwise you get a bunch of LGBT positive websites. The connection of Google to Obama includes several with Megan Smith being a confirmed gay activist, so no surprises with where Google will spin things and point you and your children towards.

  3. Comment by MarcoPolo on December 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    I’m confused as to whether you were trying to credit Google, or discredit Google in regards to their listing of LGBT data?
    And who again, is Megan Smith?
    Thanks in advance for your response. Sorry for my confusion.

  4. Comment by Nonbeliever on December 15, 2015 at 8:13 am

    I was pointing out that Google is already manipulating search engine results. My example was trying to search for negative information about anything LGBT. Your search has to be very specific or you will get pro LGBT search hits from Google for pages. Further, I was pointing out their tie to Obama as he has appointed a number of former Google execs to key technology positions in his administration. Megan Smith being a recent one that per the link is also an active leader in the LGBT cult. A reasonable person has to assume that Google will manipulate data and searches in a manner favorable to their political and social views.

  5. Comment by MarcoPolo on December 15, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Thanks for clearing up my confusion.

    We do live in a time when technology evolves faster than humans can keep up. But then, when did Man ever have the edge over emerging forces of change?

    My wife and I prefer listening to “listener supported” radio because one doesn’t have to endure the incessant rant by advertisers for the mass consumption market. These same preferences are starting to divide people’s interests, much like the natural world of mitosis…. it’s inevitable!

    Best wishes for your ‘team’s’ survival in this ever-changing world! None of us are coming out of this alive, so let’s at least appreciate this time that we have, in peaceful coexistence.


  6. Comment by MarcoPolo on December 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Am I to assume that there are negative things about LGBT that I don’t know about?

  7. Comment by Emily on December 14, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Can you add that God would still be sovereign and His Gospel would still be preached to the ends of the Earth even if this did happen. We too easily forget that God keeps his promises.

  8. Comment by Kenneth Jenkins on December 14, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Hi Emily. Yes, 100% God is sovereign and keeps His promises. His Word will go forth regardless of mankind’s attempt to stop it. That in no way implies being passive. If apostle Paul did nothing, God’s Word would still go forth. But, Paul was very active in promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and used various means and other people available to him. He challenged and rebuked those who tried to discredit and derail the Gospel. You also can find examples of Jesus and the prophets doing the same in their context. I believe we can use them as a model for us today. If the article is true, we need to be proactive and use whatever avenues we can to do our part in the proclamation of the Gospel–even confronting tech giants like Google.

  9. Comment by mikehorn on December 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    So… You want the businesses you don’t own to cater to your notions of theology? How is that religious liberty again? That sounds like the opposite: religious coercion.

    Now, if a Christian decides to start a social media site or search engine and turns it into a business that succeeds, would you in turn support the rights of atheists and gays a anyone you disagree with doing as they will?

  10. Comment by bcdefg123 on December 14, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    The issue discussed here isn’t one of special privilege for Christians, it is one of equal privilege. The problem isn’t one that exists now, but rather a hypothetical, if one day search engines decide to design algorithms to suppress certain content based on religion (assuming no violence, lawbreaking, or anything of that sort), trampling the diversity (which includes religious liberty) that they likely already claim to support. Likewise, Christians as consumers would be free to not support those kinds of sites and flock to ones truly supporting religious liberty, or any others that strike their fancy. Not supporting someone’s product or service is not a denial of a right, nor is it shutting anyone else’s voice down.

  11. Comment by JClarke on December 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

    No, this is about equal access.

  12. Comment by MikeJ2 on January 4, 2016 at 7:01 am

    They are confusing “religious liberty” with “religious privilege”. It is a common mistake these days.

  13. Comment by mikehorn on December 14, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    If you want to get Google to bring your sites up more, stage a campaign to raise the profile of your sites. Like a specific article or page, have everyone go there through google at least once a day.

    Google search order is not a measure of correct, it’s a measure of frequency.

    As for Facebook, a business is allowed to control traffic on its site. Facebook has no interest in being the darling child of the anti-gay movement, and since it’s their business, they can control that. You are not paying for their service – it’s free. You have very few rights to access a site you neither own nor do business with. No harm or detriment will come if you aren’t shouting Jesus over Facebook.

    If sites like juicy ecumenism become blocked on the Internet, then you have a point. It’s a Christian site spreading Christian points owned by Christians (presumably). You even have the right to block people from your comment thread.

    So, let’s test your sense of equality and belief in Liberty:

    I’m a college graduate with both bachelors and masters degrees. I’ve been married once, for 16 years and counting. Been in the military for 15 years and have served in two war zones. I’m a liberal. I’m an atheist. I support gay rights as much as Christian rights – they both deserve to live openly and in peace, according to their beliefs, as long as no harm comes from actions, the standard that both supports and limits individual freedoms.

    To paraphrase someone smarter than I: I despise what you say, but support your right to say it. Do you return the favor and support the rights of those you disagree with?

  14. Comment by polistra24 on December 14, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Maybe it’s a good time to think about ‘recolonizing’ an old media channel with global reach. The shortwave bands. Christian stations made good use of SW back when the Fairness Doctrine cut out ‘controversial’ stuff on regular AM and TV. EWTN and a few others are still there. Most of the big government-run stations have abandoned SW. There’s plenty of room in that part of the spectrum now.

  15. Comment by Peter Johnson on December 16, 2015 at 10:43 am

    “But it’s going to get to the point where our message isn’t even seen by anybody and we can’t even get our message out there because the algorithms are blocking it.”

    Maybe we need to concurrently pursue and ensure the message of what God requires of us–God’s good voice–is able to be spoken freely within the social media platform of individual churches. Therein, an algorithm already exists in the form of the administrator’s ‘Delete’ option.

    Personally, I have had my post linking to Gospel Coalition’s ’40 questions…’ deleted because, allegedly, SOME people may see it as being directed at them. In fact, as I discovered, it was only ONE pro-gay marriage person within the congregation who took offence. That person’s sensitivity trumped any reasonable expectation that an evangelical church preaching the doctrines of grace would permit, even encourage, a pro-Biblical view to be promoted within its social media group (using Facebook platform). In my opinion the whole thing was a disgrace and an abuse of the privilege to both participate and administer.

    We can expect amoral, godless, commercial entities to attempt to silence the Church. The present reality is, the Church can and does silence itself. Gut-wrenching — Go figure.

    My hope is that some people with the ability to pursue Bible-based liberty within the evangelical church itself and its social media venues, will take up the challenge — something beyond my ability, regretfully.

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