Churches may often find themselves at odds with Big Tech regarding cultural, social, and moral issues. Corporations like Facebook, YouTube, and MailChimp reserve the right to moderate the content that people put on their platforms, including traditional Christian beliefs and teachings. Plus, any of their billions of users can flag a church’s account if they find content that they disagree with or find offensive.
How can churches effectively share gospel-centered content online when they’re facing subjective moderation that can result in religious censorship? Publications like The Wall Street Journal have reported that Big Tech companies censor or deplatform churches on a regular basis.
For example, in August of 2021, the Sacramento Gospel Conference was live streaming a lecture about human sexuality on YouTube when suddenly it was cut off due to a “content violation.” According to the organizers, YouTube never gave any explanation of the violation, nor did they divulge if the content was flagged by an individual or an algorithm.
The suppression of religious expression can have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and the Church’s ability to teach the Bible. And when censorship happens, many church leaders are unsure of how to reconcile the situation.
The first step? Don’t panic. Fortunately, there are processes your church can follow to combat religious censorship, as well as alternative platforms you can explore.
Anyone can flag your church’s content as a violation of community guidelines. Some social media platforms also run algorithms to spot any content that potentially violates their standards. The first time this happens, the flagged content is blocked and your account may be temporarily suspended, preventing your church from uploading any new content.
There are processes in place to appeal community guideline violation claims, account suspensions, or banned content for most social media platforms. Other Big Tech platforms, like Mailchimp, will contact your church if there has been a violation and share the steps for unsuspending your account.
Check out the following examples of what these processes look like:
Note that if you receive multiple strikes, your account may be permanently banned and/or all of your content deleted.
Churches that live stream services to Big Tech platforms are often surprised and frustrated when their content is abruptly muted or blocked. Most often, these situations are caused by a copyright infringement claim.
To be clear, content removal due to copyright violations is more of a legal issue than a form of censorship. However, for churches that do have permission to stream music or upload other copyrighted materials, it can feel like their content is being unfairly singled out or targeted.
Here are some of the processes you can follow to dispute a copyright claim:
If it turns out that your church doesn’t have the correct copyright permissions in place, it’s better to edit out or remove the content in question.
Waiting for an answer to an appeal or dispute can take days or even weeks to resolve. If you’re looking to speed up the process, you can try one of these more time-efficient options:
Edit your content
By editing your content, you may be able to unblock your account and allow people to continue engaging with your message. Depending on the type of content you’re editing, like videos or a text-only post, you may simply need to change some of the text, the post description, or edit out a song.
Reupload your content
In most cases, reuploading the same exact content that has been flagged will not work. However, similar to editing your content, another approach is to make very small changes to your original content and reupload it as new content.
Remove your content
When all else fails, simply removing the flagged content may be enough to keep or reinstate your account.
If your Facebook content or messages are blocked due to spam complaints, it may be a result of posting to your page too often or sending multiple messages with the same wording. Here’s how to avoid this from happening:
The key takeaway here is to avoid repetitive messages and wording, as those are often seen as spammy by many social media sites.
Remember that Big Tech is not known for big customer service. While some offer better service for customers who pay a premium price,most community guidelines claim disputes or copyright infringement appeals take days, weeks, or much longer to resolve.
The main drawback to this option is that your account may be suspended and your content blocked while you wait.
In some cases, the traditional appeal or dispute resolution processes fail to resolve the issue. If your church believes that they have been the victims of religious censorship, you may want to consider seeking outside support to help rectify the situation.
Getting the public involved is one tactic that can drive corporations to resolve issues more quickly. One way to do this is to create a grassroots campaign to highlight the censorship that’s taken place. Collaborate with other ministries to share your story on their social media pages. Connect with local media or national groups like The Heritage Foundation to help bring awareness to your church’s situation.
Seek legal counsel
When your church is faced with a particularly difficult dilemma, obtaining legal advice from a reputable law firm can help you better understand your rights and what actions you can take. Your church can turn to a local attorney, law firm, or reach out to an advocacy group that seeks to protect religious freedoms, such as Alliance Defending Freedom and Advocates for Faith & Freedom.
In response to religious censorship that is happening, churches are looking for other solutions to help them share the gospel and disciple their congregations.
Subsplash believes in every church’s right to religious freedom and expression. We created a platform with tools that allow churches to share their content without fear of religious censorship, such as:
To learn more about creating an online community on a platform that respects your religious liberty and freedom, simply fill out the form below.