Religious Broadcasters Gather in DC, Announce Response to Problem of Internet Censorship

The National Religious Broadcasters gathered in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to announce their new “Internet Freedom Initiative.”

The event, held at the National Press Club, included a discussion panel with NRB President and CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, PragerU Chief Marketing Officer Craig Strazzeri, former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell and Century Strategies Chairman and CEO Ralph Reed.

According to the NRB’s website, the group was established to fight “corporate censorship of evangelical radio ministries.” The new Internet Freedom Initiative comes in response to accusations that conservative and religious outlets have been censored on social media.

One major topic of discussion included the controversy surrounding Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

Blackburn launched her campaign to replace outgoing Sen. Bob Corker, who will not seek re-election in 2018, with a video discussing various topics, including her pro-life views.

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As reported by Politco, the video was still available on Twitter, but the platform would not allow the campaign to pay to promote it. Twitter had issue with the line, “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts, thank God.”

“The line in this video specific to ‘stopped the sale of baby body parts’ has been deemed an inflammatory statement that is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction,” Twitter told the Blackburn campaign in an email obtained by Buzzfeed. “If this is omitted from the video it will be permitted to serve.”

The Blackburn campaign reportedly refused to edit the video.

Cruz discussed the incident during his speech Thursday, saying, “Last month, Twitter barred Rep. Marsha Blackburn from advertising her campaign launch video, because it deemed a line about efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood to be ‘inflammatory.'”

Cruz also discussed what he said were negative search results on Google for Republican politicians versus more positive top search results for Democrats.

He cited a 2015 study conducted by a professor at Northwestern University, which looked into the search results for the sixteen candidates running for president. According to Cruz, “Democrats on average had seven favorable search results among Google’s top 10. Republicans meanwhile, had 5.9 positive search results.”

Durning the event Thursday, the NRB announced the launch of its new website, InternetFreedomWatch.org.

The “About” section of the site states that the project’s main goal is to “challenge Silicon Valley to uniformly practice its professed commitment to free speech, and explore possible public policy options that may exist to address the loss of internet freedom.”

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During his own address to the NRB, McDowell said he thinks “there needs to be more attention brought to” the loss of internet freedom.

“Merely the fact that you’re shining a spotlight here has a curative effect. This is good to get some of these companies you’ve cited to think more about it. And they have been scrambling and thinking more about it, especially in the last twelve months,” he said.

Responding to questions at the end of the conference, McDowell noted his caution in asking the government to regulate speech on private platforms online.

“But I’m a big believer that the market will help equalize that (free speech), and we need to be very careful and very cautious of asking the government to come in and balance speech, which I don’t think it can really do under the First Amendment,” he said.

Caterine DeCicco is The Western Journal’s Washington, D.C. video producer.