"New media" communications like Twitter, Facebook, Apple and Google are extremely popular these days.
But Christian advocates, like the National Religious Broadcasters, say some of those companies could limit the American tradition of free speech.
The NRB and other Christian leaders gathered in the nation's capital recently to discuss the threat of censorship on Web-based communications.
"We started our analysis of new media censorship when it was only a potential threat," Craig Parshall, senior vice president of communications and general counsel for the NRB, said.
"It was about two-and-a-half years ago, and lo-and-behold after about four or five months of evaluating the risk, we saw the risk come to life," he added.
The NRB and the American Center for Law and Justice conducted a study on anti-Christian censorship on new-media platforms. They discovered the following:
- Apple twice removed applications that included Christian content from its iTunes app store because it considered the viewpoints expressed to be "offensive."
- The search engine giant Google refused to accept a pro-life advertisement from a Christian organization, which prompted a lawsuit in England.
- The social networking site Facebook has partnered with gay rights advocates to prevent content they consider "anti-homosexual." That suggests Christian content critical of same-sex marriage is at risk of censorship.
Other Christians have also raised concerns about the possibility of online censorship by popular websites.
Twitter appears to be an exception and is the only new media company that does not censor Christian ideas or content. Parshall says that's because they have a clear written policy on free speech values.
But the others reserve the discretion to ban any speech they find offensive. Consequently, Parshall and other Christian leaders are calling on these social media companies to voluntarily recognize free speech values.
"There's an interesting legal dilemma facing us and that is this: The First Amendment of the Constitution was drafted to restrain Congress and government, not the actions of private companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple," Parshall explained.
"On the other hand," he added, "there's no question that the American people, I think, will demand if they know that censorship is going on that free speech prevails."