Getting Around The Censors: Host Your Own Content

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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  1. I am a PCA pastor. I was uncomfortable with the dishonest and unpredictable nature of social media when my church began live-streaming last year. With all that happened between the election and COVID I simply didn’t trust the “free” services of Youtube/Facebook/etc.

    Being a very beginner-level-not-very-tech-savvy person we needed something simple. Having a small church with a small budget, we needed something cheap. I read a lot of reviews and found that fit all our needs. We pay $35 per month for live-streaming straight to an embedded link on our church’s website. It also broadcasts on Roku. In our case, as soon as the worship service is over then the video ends. We only post audio from the sermons (so as to avoid music copyright problems) after the service is over. But we are up live every Sunday and people all over have had no problem viewing it. I didn’t buy a fancy camera or set up. I literally just have my personal computer on the pulpit with me. Its very easy and helps us avoid the real and potential dangers of big tech.

  2. Well said, especially the reminder that the internet predates the social media giants by quite a few decades. We should also bear in mind that, handy though it may be, the internet itself is a newcomer to Christian communications – the printed word may take longer to disseminate, but it won’t disappear from your shelf if the publisher decides to sell out.

  3. I would add that if you buy web hosting services – say from – you are subject to censorship from them as well (look what happened to Parler, for example). You need your own domain AND your own server.

  4. My recommendation would be to subscribe to content via an RSS reader. There are countless apps out there – I use Feedly – but in each case you subscribe directly to a blog or news source by tapping in to a feed on their own site. If an RSS reader banned content, it would be easy to simply switch to another reader.

  5. “If you’re posting good content, people will find it” seems rather naive. The reason why social media is so important and so heavily controlled is precisely because it is the primary medium through which people find content, having surpassed search engines, which are equally controlled for the same reason. Attempts to apply some rugged individualism and create alternatives meet the reality that the backend of the internet is just as controlled as the frontend. Amazon, Google, and other tech giants make the bulk of their profits from services such as cloud computing, adverising, CDNs, etc., and have as many qualms about censorship as Twitter or Facebook. Nevermind hosting services, banking services, from Paypal to, well, actual banks, have denied services to political dissidents. Censorship may be immature now but the infrastructure is there. It’s not hard to imagine evangelizing on the Chinese internet being more feasible in a decade.

    For our part, we should use the internet to the glory of God as long as we can but expect a future in which that is all but impossible. If anything, we need to circle back to networking in the pre-internet sense, recognizing that we see as fair a hearing of our views on the internet as we do on television (or its internet successors).

    • James,

      What you call naïve I call history. I started this blog before there was social media or at least before people were using Twitter. Thousands upon thousands of people found the Heidelblog and continue to find it without the help of social media. That is all I was saying.

      it is not impossible to dedicate a server to hosting a site and to collect funds without using PayPal etc. social media and PayPal are conveniences not necessities.

  6. Live streaming yourself is doable but it’s really challenging to do well. Aside from the bandwidth (which the broadband you get to the church probably cannot handle) you also have to transcode the audio and video. You probably want to have higher resolution video, but Larry’s cell plan will burn out so he wants a lower resolution, Apple devices typically proffer different formats that Android.

    There are services like Sermon Audio that provide live streaming (SA will also rebroadcast to YT or FB for you) that handles much of that complexity.

    If you do get a massive fibre bundle with lots of upload capacity (most plans provide more download than up so check) you might want to look at something like Nimble Server ( which is free but has a monthly fee if you want to use the web UI (you do, at least until you sort out your configuration).

    If you want to do live streaming with more pizzazz than your brother’s iPhone gives you, you’ll want a dedicated audio interface to hook you PA mixer into ($100-150 for a good system), and OBS to do the actual streaming. The nice thing about OBS is that you can create a web page for those bottom third type effects (show the preacher’s name, the text, what have you over the live video). It’s a full web browser (without interaction) so you local web guru can go nuts (but we tend to go nuts with these things so keep an eye on us). A good usb web cam if you want congregation shots and a camcorder with CLEAN HDMI out (none of the on screen display you see in the view finder) and a good HDMI to USB for close up of the minister. It can be a pain to get the audio and video in sync but good quality components go a long way.

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