Do Facebook, Google and Twitter Censor Conservatives?

‘Big tech’ plays a huge and ever-expanding role in our lives. Without a thought, we now trust platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter to inform us about the latest trends in culture, the products we want, and the news stories that matter.

But over the last year or so, evidence has been mounting that big tech is biased. Disgruntled employees are leaving Silicon Valley with stories of systemic prejudice. Organisations have formed, claiming that the companies we trust are using their power to silence conservative viewpoints and favour progressive ones.

Could it all be true?

I first became aware of this issue not through news stories but through my own experience. I began a blog back in 2014. Like many bloggers, I’ve since worked hard to increase my readership and visibility, relying mostly on Facebook for traffic. I’d been seeing great progress—until around a year ago, when my stats began to stagnate.

“Evidence has been mounting that big tech is biased.”

Maybe the explanation is simple: I’ve become irrelevant. As I’ve pondered this, it seems an unlikely reason, given that in the same period I’ve had many articles published by websites with readership in the tens of thousands.

Ultimately I can only speculate about causes, since big tech companies are tight-lipped about their techniques. But in May this year, something ominous happened.

A close friend shared one of my articles, only to be told by one of his Facebook friends, “I just posted this to a Christian Group Page I am a member of and received a warning from the Facebook Admin for posting inappropriate content.”

“Big tech’s track record was worse than I’d imagined.”

What was so evil about my article that it violated Facebook’s ‘community standards’? Well, in advance of Australia’s federal election, I explained that Christian values can be found on both sides of politics—but given Labor’s policy platform this year, I couldn’t in good conscience vote for them. That’s all. Read it here.

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard of ‘conservative’ content being censored, so I decided to do some research. What I discovered about big tech’s track record was worse than I’d imagined. Here’s just a sampling.

Google fires its first whistleblower | July 2017

The first big story begins in mid 2017. It centres around Google employee James Damore who sent an internal memo highlighting what he called Google’s ‘ideological echo chamber’.

The company, he complained, was guilty of ‘reverse discrimination’ against conservatives, white people, and men. In response to his complaint, Google fired him.

Damore is currently pursuing legal action against the big tech giant.

Twitter allegedly ‘shadow-bans’ Republicans | July 2018

A year later, it came to light that Twitter was using a technique called ‘shadow-banning’ to make prominent Republicans less visible on their platform. When this blatant bias was exposed by VICE News, Twitter adjusted their platform overnight.

Facebook whistleblower quits | August 2018

The next company to show cracks was Facebook. The following month, Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, made a post on the company’s internal message board with the title, “We Have a Problem With Political Diversity”.

He wrote, “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views. We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack—often in mobs—anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.”

In response to this, over 100 employees at Facebook formed an online group called “FB’ers for Political Diversity”. Amerige later quit Facebook over concerns with its ‘hate speech’ policy.

Conservative non-profit files censorship lawsuit against YouTube | January 2019

Fast forward to January of this year, and the conservative non-profit PragerU filed a lawsuit against YouTube for what it claims is unlawful restriction of speech.

PragerU’s videos focus on America’s founding values, and they’ve been viewed online over 2.3 billion times. But currently over 100 of their videos—or a full 10 percent of their video library—are flagged as ‘restricted’ on YouTube, making them difficult for young people to access.

On watching any of their restricted videos, it’s difficult to see how they could qualify as ‘inappropriate’ for younger audiences.

Twitter and Google censor pro-life movie | April 2019

In April, the highly successful pro-life movie Unplanned had its Twitter account suspended. After public outcry, Twitter restored the account, but with almost all of its 200,000 followers removed, and other users unable to follow it.

Around the same time, Google listed the movie as ‘propaganda’. Soon after, the search engine reported that they’d fixed the issue.

Facebook censors author for protesting censorship | May 2019

Yet more happened in May of this year. In an ironic twist, Michelle Malkin, a high-profile author and commentator, was censored on Facebook for protesting the censorship of two other conservative figures, Laura Loomer and Gavin McInnes.

In her post, she wrote, “They are banned from Facebook and Instagram for exercising their free speech—while violent jihad groups are allowed on these platforms to spread their murderous poison… I do not know how much longer it will be before I am next.”

She was next. Facebook removed her post, saying that it was a violation of their ‘community standards.’

University study reveals Google political bias | May 2019

In May this year again, a study conducted by Northwestern University found that 86 percent of Google’s top news stories over the course of a month came from a narrow band of left-leaning news sites. CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post appeared most often in these searches.

This came after a seperate study revealed that 90 percent of political donations by Google employees had gone to Democratic candidates.

Google fires a second whistleblower | June 2019

Just last month, Google software engineer Mike Wacker was fired after he criticised the company’s anti-conservative bias in a cable news interview.

He’d previously written a controversial open letter describing ‘outrage mobs’ at the company who “will hunt down any conservative, any Christian, and any independent free thinker at Google who does not bow down to their agenda.”

Pinterest bans prominent pro-life group | June 2019

Also in June this year, Pinterest permanently banned the pro-life organisation Live Action from their platform. Incredibly, Pinterest claimed that Live Action disseminates “medical misinformation and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment and violence”.

Earlier in the year, users on Pinterest had been complaining of difficulty pinning Live Action’s content on their pinboards. The reason for this became clear when Eric Cochran, a software engineer from Pinterest, blew the whistle on his own company. He revealed that Pinterest had secretly placed the pro-life group on a list of banned pornography websites.

When Pinterest learned of this, they responded in the most inglorious of ways, by having security escort him from the building—making it clear that he’d been fired.

Google executive filmed hoping to prevent Trump’s re-election | June 2019

In what has been the most widely-reported revelation of big tech bias, last month a senior Google executive was caught on an undercover video. In the video, she suggests that the search engine giant hopes to stop “the next Trump situation” in the upcoming election.

Jen Gennai, Google’s Head of Responsible Innovation, was responding to the idea that Google should be broken up into smaller, less powerful, companies. She was filmed saying, “Smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation… a small company cannot do that.”

“Last month a senior Google executive was caught on an undercover video.”

She went on. “We all got screwed over in 2016… the people got screwed over, the news media got screwed over, like everybody got screwed over so we’ve rapidly been like, what happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again.”

The footage, uploaded to YouTube, was quickly removed, with YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, citing its privacy guidelines.

Following the revelation, Google of course denied that they are working to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Who Will Be Next?

Perhaps some of these accounts are tainted by exaggeration, half truths, or even genuine mistakes. But it seems unlikely that they can all be explained in such a way. As many have pointed out, those affected almost always seem to be conservative personalities and ideas.

What’s concerning is that the stories I’ve retold here have only come to light because the people affected were high-profile enough to matter to the media. My story was untold until now: doubtless there are many more everyday people like me falling victim.

This leaves us with one lingering question: who will be next? Based on how quickly big tech bias has accelerated in the last year, it seems to be a question of when and who, not if.

“Doubtless there are many more everyday people like me falling victim.”

Many who discuss this issue contend that since social media and search engine companies are private enterprises, they can choose who and what takes up space on their platforms—so this isn’t really an issue of free speech.

There is merit to this perspective. But it’s also true that these companies now function in a very similar way to the utilities we use daily, like electricity, roads and gas. Intended or not, Facebook, Google and Twitter are now gatekeepers of the internet—and therefore, culture.

As such, when these companies draw lines as they surely are entitled to do, they should apply rules consistently, regardless of politics—and they should do so with the lightest possible touch.

“Facebook, Google and Twitter are now gatekeepers of the internet—and therefore, culture.”

Surely people are best served when public spaces, including online ones, are a battleground of ideas, not a battleground against ideas.

Until something changes, it’s likely that many progressive voices, unaffected by big tech bias, will deny that any bias exists, and that free speech isn’t under threat.

When I hear this, I will simply recall the mantra I’ve heard from progressive circles for years now: privilege is invisible to those who have it.

I’ve got some big writing and travel adventures planned for 2019. If you’d like to stay updated every once in a while by email newsletter, let me know here.

Israel Folau and the Fight for Underdog Status

Over two months have passed since Israel Folau found himself in the media spotlight, and buckets of ink are still being spilt as his story develops.

In recent days, the focus has shifted to Izzy’s GoFundMe campaign. He’s hoping to raise $3.0M for his legal showdown with Rugby Australia.

In this and every other stage of the Folau saga, there is a hearts-and-minds battle taking place. It’s one you may not have noticed, but it’s the fight for underdog status.

“Since May, Rugby Australia have been on the nose.”

The code itself has waged war on one of its own. Rugby Australia have bullied Izzy and rendered him, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the underdog. And this is a problem for them given that Aussies love underdogs.

From the beginning, public support for Folau has been huge. Quiet Australians have already donated $600,000 to his campaign. Some were even persuaded to make their election vote a vote for him and for religious freedom.

Rugby Australia can’t afford a public outcry in Folau’s favour. They could go bankrupt if their crusade against him fails. At the very least, their esteem among ordinary Australians is at stake.

“The code itself has waged war on one of its own.”

And since May, Rugby Australia have been on the nose. They realise that if they want to save their own reputation, they have no choice but to destroy Folau’s.

Here’s the rub. There’s no way they can paint themselves as the underdog, given their imposing role as his employer and their impressive corporate alliances.

But they can paint Israel Folau as a bully and a bad guy, if they can just find a victim. And that’s exactly what they’ve been doing, with tireless support since May from most of the mainstream media.

“There is a hearts-and-minds battle taking place.”

When Izzy made that now infamous Instagram post, they hauled him before a tribunal and had him interrogated like he’d actually bullied someone, like someone else was the underdog.

In reality, he’d posted a Bible verse. It was directed at no particular individual, and it simply stated what Christians have always believed about sin and salvation.

When Israel expressed concern in a sermon last week about the transgender agenda in schools, almost every major news outlet smeared him immediately, carrying identical misinformed stories. They said he was on the attack again—this time against transgender youth. Again, as though someone else was the underdog.

“Rugby Australia have bullied Izzy and rendered him the underdog.”

In reality, Folau never targeted any transgender youth. His concern was with radical government policies, a concern that many quiet Australians share.

When Izzy took to GoFundMe for support in his legal battle this week, the media swooped again, suggesting this was a “brazen money grab”. They accused him of diverting funds away from sick and dying children on the crowdfunding site. They argued that someone else was the underdog.

In reality, it’s Israel Folau who is the underdog. He has been from the beginning.

“Aussies love underdogs.”

He’s lost his career and his only source of income. He’s been banned from both codes of the sport he loves, despite his spotless moral character. He’s faced a relentless and coordinated public smear campaign.

On top of all this, he’s facing millions of dollars in legal fees. The stand he’s taking isn’t merely for his career. He seeks to set an important legal precedent for religious freedom in Australia at a time when this freedom is worryingly unprotected.

“As Australians we’re born with the right of freedom of religion, and the right to freedom of expression,” says Folau. “The Christian faith has always been a part of my life, and I believe as a Christian it is my duty to share God’s word.

“In reality, it’s Israel Folau who is the underdog.”

“Rugby Australia tore up my employment contract for doing just that—that’s wrong. Every Australian should be able to practice their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace.”

As the saga continues to unfold, some think they’re taking the moral high ground by opposing Folau. Even Christians are swallowing the spin that Israel Folau is the bully, and someone else—anyone else—is the underdog.

His haters say he should sell one of his properties to fund his legal fees. I wonder if they’d be happy to do the same if they’d already had their career and reputation stripped from them?

“He’s been banned from both codes of the sport he loves.”

Let common sense prevail. Let the quiet Australians decide who the underdog really is.

Going by the growing success of Izzy’s GoFundMe campaign, I think we have might have our answer.

Voting Like a Christian This Saturday

Politics is boring. That was definitely my view growing up. I’d say it’s the view of most young Australians—except for a few vocal friends in our newsfeeds, maybe. (I might be one of them. If so, I’m sorry. I hate being ‘that guy’).

For the most part, we Aussies feel the same about politics as we do about religion. In other words, awkward. Not sure what others will think if we speak up. Wary of of the consequences. Heck, it took me a lot of courage to publish this blog.

“Politics is boring. That was definitely my view growing up.”

But I’m not sure that’s God’s intention for believers. In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul wasn’t afraid to talk about politics or religion. He seemed to think both are important—and both are connected:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Three words stand out to me here as I prepare to vote on Saturday—three words that I think can help Christians vote ‘Christianly’, if that’s a thing. Here they are.

1 .  K I N G S

We don’t have a king. We have a Prime Minister. Big deal. Actually, it is.

Until a couple centuries ago, every person from the dawn of time found themselves ruled by someone they didn’t choose, and probably wouldn’t if they’d had a say. Good leaders were the exception—tyranny was the rule.

I can’t express how thankful I am to be born into a democracy. On Saturday, I along with everyone else in my electorate will get a green piece of paper. The person the majority of us choose will spend the next three years in Canberra—in the House of Representatives—representing us and our concerns.

“Who we send to Canberra really matters.”

Australia has 151 of these representatives. If a majority are from the same political party or alliance, they get to choose one of their own to lead the country. This year, that will be either Scott Morrison or Bill Shorten.

Stay with me here. This is important.

Democracy has ‘checks and balances’ to make sure bad laws aren’t easily passed. One of these is the Senate. It’s a seperate house of parliament, made up of 76 members from around the country, who have to approve any change in law suggested by the other house. These are the people you’ll be voting for on your white piece of paper.

Who we send to Canberra really matters. They shape the law that governs us. This is why it’s so important that we pray for them—whoever they are, whatever views they have.

2 .  G O D L I N E S S

If the people we send to Canberra shape our country, we owe it to ourselves to know who we’re voting for and the values they stand for. After all, God says here that he wants us to have leaders who promote godliness.

What does godliness look like in 21st century Australia? It looks like lots of things. Strong marriages and families; justice for those crying out for it; good stewardship of the environment; help for those who can’t help themselves; the freedoms that make democracy work in the first place. The list goes on.

Sadly there are no parties that do all of these things well. Christians find themselves either voting “left” for justice and the environment—or “right” for family values and freedoms.

Most of us long for a party that will represent all of these concerns well. The Bible tells us that it’s coming, but we don’t know when the Prince of Peace will return to establish his kingdom. Until then, we have some choices to make.

“We owe it to ourselves to know who we’re voting for and the values they stand for.”

Here’s how I’ve resolved it. I care deeply about justice and the environment. I recycle, I chat and give to the homeless, I like to buy local and ethical, I eat a plant-heavy diet, I minimise my waste, I try to give generously to the poor, and I live with an open heart to people of other cultures and creeds.

Lots of my concerns about justice and the environment can be addressed by my own choices, with my own money, within my own circle of influence. Not all, but lots.

Voting “left” on these issues will help increase foreign aid, open Australia’s borders, and better sustain the environment. It will make me feel better—but I’ll be using other people’s money and resources to do it. This isn’t actually as generous as it seems on the surface. Far better that I first practice care and generosity with the things that are mine.

“Voting left will make me feel better—but I’ll be using other people’s money and resources to do it.”

The godliness I can’t so easily influence are these other issues—namely, family values and freedom. Let’s start with just one example. In Australia, 70,000+ abortions take place every year. It’s staggering to think that the unborn have only a 3 in 4 chance of making it out of the womb alive.

In looking at Australia’s major parties, sadly a Labor-Greens alliance is unconcerned about the unborn’s right to life. In fact, Labor is pushing to make abortion free and accessible up to birth throughout Australia, threatening to deny funding to public hospitals that refuse.

If I have to choose between the environment and human beings, then as a Christian I will choose human beings who are made in God’s image. If I’m serious about promoting justice and helping those who can’t help themselves, I must lend my vote to these precious little ones facing their silent holocaust.

3 .  S A V E D

But I have other concerns that are beyond my ability to influence in day-to-day life. Australia’s freedoms are so, so precious. If they disappear, democracy disappears with them. Consider the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

This is why, as much as I didn’t like Israel Folau’s Instagram posts, all Australians should be horrified when anyone loses their job for expressing a tenet of their mainstream religious faith.

“Australia’s freedoms are so, so precious.”

We’re used to thinking of our freedoms as a given, but they are not. In small bubbles of the world, for bubbles of time that can be measured in just centuries, these freedoms have existed. Apart from that, they have not. Preserving them must always be one of the main projects of democracy.

Sadly, Labor and the Greens have shown contempt for these freedoms as well.

There are five main equality rights recognised in international law: race, age, disability, sex and religion. The only one not protected in Australian law is religion.

“If these freedoms disappear, democracy disappears with them.”

With religious discrimination on the rise in Australia, Scott Morrison’s Liberal party has promised to introduce a much-needed ‘Religious Discrimination Act’ if they win on Saturday.

On the other hand, Labor and the Greens have set themselves against religious schools, hoping to take away their right to choose staff who will teach their values. This follows on from an attempt by Labor last year to change the Sex Discrimination Act so that any place of worship could be taken to court for teaching their thousands-of-years-old beliefs. This is a staggering shirtfront on freedom.

My concerns about religious freedom might sound selfish, like I’m just trying to protect Christians. But in truth, the erosion of these freedoms is bad for everyone regardless of their faith, and it’s terrible for civilisation.

“Preserving our freedoms must always be one of the main projects of democracy.”

More than that, it’s terrible for the gospel. 1 Timothy tells us to seek godly leaders so that we’re free to proclaim the gospel, that all people might have a chance to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

If we Christians believe our own message, surely we want this freedom preserved—not merely for our own sake, but for all those God longs to save.

I’m convinced that religious freedom and right to life for the unborn are two of the most crucial issues come Saturday. In my everyday life, I’m limited in what I can do to influence these issues. But I can use my vote.

“If we Christians believe our own message, surely we want freedom of religion preserved.”

So I’ve emailed all the candidates who will be on my green and white papers this weekend. (It was so easy—do it for your electorate here). I’ve asked them where they stand on these issues, and I will rank them accordingly.

This is how I’ve resolved to vote like a Christian on Saturday. It’s not a perfect plan, and I don’t expect all Christians to agree. But I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’ve got some big writing and travel adventures planned for 2019. If you’d like to stay updated every once in a while by email newsletter, let me know here.