The days of orthodox Christians and other cultural conservatives being able to rely on social media to get out their message are over. According to a Wall Street Journal story (behind a paywall) yesterday:
Carl Trueman is a distinguished scholar, bestselling author and ordained Presbyterian minister. On Aug. 7 he gave a series of talks to the Sacramento Gospel Conference, live-streamed on the YouTube channel of Immanuel Baptist Church. Twice during the event, the live broadcast was booted off the air. Viewers were informed that the first interruption was due to a copyright violation, possibly the result of Christian music that the conference organizers played during a break. But in the second, more mysterious instance, Mr. Trueman’s presentation went dark because of a “content violation.”
Was this an intervention by a human being or an algorithm on automatic pilot? Neither Mr. Trueman nor Immanuel Baptist has been told. Equally unclear is the specific nature of the alleged content violation. Nothing in Mr. Trueman’s talks encouraged hatred, vulgarity or violence. On the contrary, he offered a thoughtful analysis of American cultural attitudes toward sex through the lens of classic Christian thought, citing sources from Freud to the philosophers Rousseau and Charles Taylor.
The congregation was hosting Trueman and streaming his talk via YouTube.
What to do? The first and easiest thing congregations and others can do is to host their own content. Stop relying on social media giants (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) to host your content. There are two reasons for this. You think that you are receiving a magically, wonderfully free service. You are not. When you use these services they are collecting your data and selling you. You are the product. See more on this below in the resources. Second, when you rely on these services to get the message out you are giving someone who is opposed to your message control over your message. Even if it turns out that YouTube did not intentionally cut Trueman’s lectures there are plenty of examples of the social media titans punishing politically or culturally incorrect messages. Go ask the folks at Prager U how often they have been demonetized (i.e., not allowed to receive ad revenue) by YouTube. PragerU has sued Google (who owns YouTube) and YouTube over the way they have been treated. Third, by hosting your content (e.g., sermons and articles) on Facebook and YouTube you are generating revenue for them. You are feeding the beast that is censoring your speech.
I do not know what the streaming solution is apart from hosting it yourself. That requires some commitment to getting and maintaining the right kind of equipment and internet connection. Not every congregation or organization will be able to do it.
Recording and hosting your own videos, however, is relatively simple for most organizations. Recording the videos is as simple as an iPhone, a tripod, and a lav mic. Any high schooler can edit, process, and upload the video to your site. It is a bigger challenge for organizations like PragerU, whose videos are downloaded by the thousands daily. Most churches and other smaller organizations can easily handle the traffic to their site. Most of the time self-hosting does not require actually housing a server but it does mean renting space on a server somewhere and setting up a website and directing traffic there. That is what the Heidelblog does. Is it possible that web hosting services may begin to censor speech? It is possible but it will almost always be possible to find some host willing to take your money.
So, record your sermons, conference talks, write your articles and then post them to your own site. I use social media (mainly Twitter) to let people know about content but I do not rely on them because I know that they can censor anything they do not like. Recently I posted an article on how to think about science relative to the Covid crisis. I was confident that the social-media overlords would not approve so I did not link to it directly. I merely mentioned its existence.
There was an internet before Twitter, YouTube, Facebook et al. We need to exercise just a little bit of rugged individualism and be content to see the numbers of downloads drop a bit in exchange for the freedom to say what we will. If you are posting good content, people will find it. Social media is the crack cocaine of the internet. It is fun and exciting at first but eventually it will have its way with you and your content.
By the way, if you rely on social media to keep up with HB content, you are probably missing out. Subscribe for free below.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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- The Ecumenical Creeds
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- Recovering the Reformed Confession (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008).
- Time To Learn (Or Relearn) How To Communicate Without Big Social Media?
- Re-Thinking Social Media
- What If Big Social Media Told You What They Have Planned For You?
- What Social Media Teaches Us About Law, Gospel, Forgiveness, And Grace
- Millennial Perfectionism And The Social Media Covenant Of Works
- Social Media Testifies To The Covenant Of Works
- Social Media Puts Us All In A Covenant Of Works
- The Fugitive, The Truth, And Social Media
- What The Louisville And Kirk Lives Matter Narratives Tell Us About Social And News Media
- Resources On Critical Theory, Political Correctness, And Free Speech
- Resources On Religious Liberty