AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK NEWSLETTER
HOW THE TECH GIANTS SHADOW-BAN, CENSOR, AND SNUFF OUT THE CHRISTIAN VOICE
Powerful tech companies rule our communications today, and shocking stories are coming out about how they’re silencing the worldviews of millions of Christian and conservative Americans, censoring the messages you’re allowed to read and post online. The latest high-profile case might be called a gaffe or “mistake,” but it actually exposes the tip of the iceberg in a much deeper, darker agenda. This week, social network powerhouse Facebook came under fire for a survey asking users whether paedophiles should be able to ask underage girls for photographs.
The users were given multiple choice answers, none of which included “calling the police.” Instead the options ranged from: “This content should not be allowed on Facebook, and no one should be able to see it” to “This content should be allowed on Facebook, and I would not mind seeing it.” Evangelist Franklin Graham called the survey “ridiculous and shameful” in a post on his own Facebook page. “Why would Facebook ask such a question?” Graham wrote. “It just shows you how low our moral standards in this country have fallen. Facebook now says the question was a mistake, well, to say the least, I firmly agree. To have a survey asking this is ridiculous and it’s shameful.
Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council told CBN News, “Transmitting this type of information is illegal. Possessing child pornography, is illegal, so it’s absolutely incomprehensible how anyone at Facebook could have thought this was an appropriate question.” Facebook said the survey has been taken down since it refers to “offensive content that is already prohibited on Facebook,” stating to the New York Post, “We have prohibited child grooming on Facebook since our earliest days, we have no intention of changing this, and we regularly work with the police to ensure that anyone found acting in such a way is brought to justice.”
This incident is just the latest in a series of moves suggesting big technology and social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, which heavily influence cultural opinions, seem to be blind or in other cases outright hostile to issues important to Christians and cultural conservatives. Sprigg pointed out that recently Facebook warned users that a story from the Christian site The Babylon Bee was “Fake News,” apparently not realizing that the stories are satire. “All of their stories are untrue, that’s the whole point. And for Facebook to be so ignorant,” he continued, “shows a real ham-handedness.”
On a more serious note, Sprigg revealed another case of censorship. “I have a friend with an ex-gay ministry who was suspended for ten days,” Sprigg said, “He was accused of having hate speech.” James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, who went undercover to expose Planned Parenthood abuses, told CBN News he has new undercover videos, this time exposing how social media companies regulate content. “I think it’s very scary for our society. They’re rewiring the DNA of our democracy, censoring ideas because they don’t like the ideas,” he said. “It’s Orwellian, like something out of A Brave New World.”
One of the videos shows Pranay Singh, a messaging engineer at Twitter, describing how company employees identify hot-button language in tweets and then write algorithms to delete them. A sample of the words he says would be inappropriate: “guns, God, America, the American flag and the cross,” Singh said. Another undercover video shows a former Twitter engineer describing a practice called “shadow banning” saying, “You ban someone, but they don’t know they’ve been banned because they keep posting and no one sees their content. So they just think that no one is engaging with their content when in reality, no one is seeing it.”
O’Keefe says the terms they choose to ban reflect a clear bias. “They’re talking about shadow banning people who believe in God, guns and the Bible,” O’Keefe said, O’Keefe said tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, “Are not allowing information unless it fits their narrative. They are altering the perception of what’s newsworthy and preventing facts from reaching people, not allowing people to see that information.” Twitter responded to the undercover videos by stating that they do not “shadowban” accounts but do “take actions to downrank accounts that are abusive, although people can still to click through and see these Tweets if they so choose.”
Twitter also said some of the people in the videos, “The individuals depicted in this video were speaking in a personal capacity and do not represent or speak for Twitter.” Other examples of censorship include Google-owned YouTube restricting a PragerU video exposing myths about the abortion giant Planned Parenthood. Similarly, Twitter would not allow an anti-abortion advertisement from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R – Tenn.) that blasted Planned Parenthood’s sale of body parts from aborted babies. The pro-life group Live Action contends both Twitter and Facebook have restricted their posts condemning abortion.
In addition to suppressing Christian content, former Facebook employees revealed they were instructed to bury conservative content, and regularly did so, such as stories from the Republican CPAC meeting and pieces about Republican leaders such as Mitt Romney and Rand Paul despite knowing the stories would be of interest to its users. In January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new company policy restricting certain content their customers will view. “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” his statement read. However, critics say only Christian and conservative content appears to be being restricted.
The analysis shows engagement numbers among those publishers dropped by more than half, while others remained the same. The role of technology companies filtering the news is the subject of a new documentary by journalist Peter Schweizer, author of the book, Clinton Cash. The movie, to be released in May, is called “The Creepy Line,” referencing a notorious comment made by former Google chief executive and chairman Eric Schmidt, who, speaking about privacy issues in 2010, said it was his company’s role “to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.” Critics say they’re well past that point now.
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CHRISTIAN RETREAT CENTRE IN IRAN FORCED TO CLOSE DOWN
A retreat centre belonging to the Assemblies of God Churches (AoG) in Iran has been served an evacuation notice by police. According to religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Sharon Retreat Centre was served with the evacuation notice on 7th March and its caretakers were given only three days to remove all of their belongings and hand the centre over to the government. The centre is located in Karaj and sits on 10,000 square metres of land and is worth $2,200,000. The Council of AoG Churches in Iran acquired it in the early 1970s for use as a retreat for church ministers, for youth camps, and for other church functions.
This is not the first time retreat centre has been the subject of much scrutiny. CSW said in 2005, the centre was raided by security agents during a Council Synod meeting, and all the clergy on the Council were arrested. The church leaders were interrogated overnight in a detention centre near Karaj and forced to sign an agreement stating they would comply with the government’s demands to limit church activities. The charity added that one article of this agreement stated that they would use the retreat centre only for Armenian and Assyrian church members with the prior permission of security officials.
Also in 2015, a Revolutionary Court issued a confiscation order for the property and Iran’s government has accused the centre of being funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to “infiltrate and undermine the country through evangelistic activities”. The AoG was registered as a church and religious institution in 1973, and after the Islamic Revolution, its status as a registered religious institution was reinstated. CSW said in a statement: “By attributing the AoG’s funding to the CIA, the Iranian authorities sought to facilitate both the seizure of property, and the possible prosecution of church leaders on national security-related charges.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said he is deeply alarmed at the planned seizure of property from a religious community that is recognised under the Iranian constitution. He added: “We urge the government of Iran, as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights, to fulfil its obligations and ensure freedom of religion in its fullest sense for all of Iran’s religious minorities. We also call for interventions from key members of the international community to prevent this injustice from occurring, and to remind the Iranian government of its obligations under international law and its own constitution.”
Source: Premier News Service
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UK SUPERMARKET CHAIN IS SELLING GENDER-NEUTRAL MOTHER’S DAY CARDS
UK food retailer Waitrose is selling gender-neutral Mother’s Day cards as retailers try to make Mother’s Day celebrations in Britain more “transgender inclusive”. The supermarket chain is selling a “Happy You Day” card in which the word “mother” does not appear. Waitrose said the move was aimed at “broadening who the cards can go to, whether it’s grandmas or transgender mums”. Traditional cards are still sold. Waitrose has been joined by other retailers, whose Mother’s Day offerings include a “Two mums are better than one” card for same-sex couples and a “Dad, thanks for being the most amazing mum” card for single fathers and transgender parents.
The changes come after calls by some transgender activists to rename Mother’s Day. Suggested alternatives include Special Person’s Day, Guardian’s Day and Carer’s Day. Karen Pollock, a trans campaigner and therapist, said Mothering Sunday, the church’s traditional name for Mother’s Day, “feels more inclusive to me, since anyone can be ‘mothering’ ” For some the day signifies sadness, perhaps because their mother has died or they are unable to have a child. Liverpool Cathedral holds a service aimed at such “Mother’s Day runaways”, with poetry, music and prayers to “acknowledge the bittersweet emotions surrounding Mothering Sunday”.
Source: The Sunday Times
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CRITICISM AFTER CARDINAL TELLS SCHOOLS NOT TO ENCOURAGE TRANSGENDERISM
The leader of Catholics in England and Wales has gotten backlash after telling school leaders not to encourage children to change their gender. According to the Daily Mail, Cardinal Vincent Nichols told a group of Catholic school head teachers in London that even if children question their gender identity, schools should not give transgenderism as a possible solution. He said that pupils should know that they are part of a society that has “firm points of reference”. He added: “In an age of fluidity, even in gender identity, and at a time when the response to “difference” is to become closed in a self-selecting world of the like-minded, such foundations are so important.”
“They affirm that there are “givens” which come with birth.” Cardinal Nichols’ comments have triggered criticism. Heather Ashton, head of transgender charity TG Pals told the newspaper: “It is the responsibility of educators to be accepting, tolerant and understanding, and a religious bias should not have any impact on a transgender child’s needs.” The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is scheduled to discuss its official stance on transgender issues next month.
Source: Premier News Service
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