Will Fake News Affect Religious Liberty?

(PHOTO: REUTERS/DARREN STAPLES) A Google search page is seen through the spectacles of a computer user in Leicester, central England July 20, 2007.

(PHOTO: REUTERS/DARREN STAPLES)
A Google search page is seen through the spectacles of a computer user in Leicester, central England July 20, 2007.

As the world’s largest web companies are being pressured to crackdown on websites that produce “fake news,” there are growing concerns that efforts to censor what is deemed to be fake news could have a negative impact on religious news websites and sites that report from a conservative or biblical perspective.

The term fake news has been circulated by the media and Hillary Clinton following her defeat to President-elect Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 presidential election, with many accusing so-called pro-Trump fake news sites of having a decisive impact on the outcome of the election.

Just days after the election, Google and Facebook announced that they would take concrete action to cut off fake news websites from their ad networks and revenues.

Google said it would ban websites that produce fake news from using its AdSense network, which is a vital source of revenue for many news organizations. Meanwhile, Facebook made changes to its Facebook Audience Network policy to ensure that no advertisements will be displayed on websites that produce fake or misleading news.

Although most people would agree that steps need to be taken to curb the flow and influence of fake news on the internet, some are warning Google, Facebook and other tech giants to be cautious in how they go about censoring fake news.

Jeff Hunt, the director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University and founder of one of Colorado’s largest conservative advertising agencies, Avinova Media Group, told The Christian Post what the changes Google and Facebook made in their policies actually mean.

“Any website that wants to host Google advertising has to be approved and go through an approval process to join what is called their AdSense network. You are typically banned from joining the AdSense network if the content on your website is pornographic or violent,” Hunt, who is also CCU’s vice president of public policy, said. “They won’t allow banner ads to run on those types of websites. What they are now adding is this notion of fake news.”

“So, you recognize that is a worthy cause and it is good that they are trying to do that,” Hunt continued. “The challenge that they are going to run up against, especially when it comes to religious issues is what is fake news, especially within the religious community.”

Hunt explained that different people have different views about religion and the truth of God.

“If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, therefore is God Himself, and Google does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, are Christian blogs now fake news?” Hunt asked. “They don’t really get into how they are going to determine what is fake news. We would look at other religions as having information that doesn’t line up with our definition of truth. As they kind of embark on this effort to eliminate fake news, they have to be very careful about what they determine within religious communities would fall under categories of fake news.”

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Samuel Smith

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