(RNS) — Todd Starnes did not think he had violated Facebook’s community standards when he posted about “wearing an NRA ball cap, eating a Chick-fil-A sandwich, reading a Paula Deen cookbook and sipping a 20-ounce sweet tea” and generally being politically incorrect.
Workers at Facebook thought otherwise, blocking the host of “Fox News & Commentary” for 12 hours before issuing an apology.
Starnes and other conservatives say the incident is part of increasing viewpoint discrimination from organizations such as Facebook and Google. They want these new media companies to protect their freedom of speech.
Since 2011, the National Religious Broadcasters’ John Milton Project for Free Speech has documented a rise in “viewpoint censorship,” targeting conservative Christian values.
“The primary concern of the John Milton project is … the power of those private companies to be arbiters of truth and opinions and holding the power to either allow or to suppress viewpoints and ideas that they simply do not agree with,” said Craig Parshall, senior vice president of the NRB, at an NRB panel discussion in early October.
Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, said the First Amendment cannot prevent private companies from limiting viewpoints, but individuals can still pressure companies to respect freedom of speech.