Sort it out Google

Cranmer has the best summary and comment on this story by far:

The Christians who sued Google

Not quite as bold as ‘The man who sued God’, but it is manifestly a David and Goliath battle which is to be admired, for the outcome has considerable implications for Christians in the areas of equality and freedom of expression.

The Christian Institute simply wanted to pay Google so that when the word ‘abortion’ was typed into the search engine, a link to a web page on its views popped up on the right hand side of the screen. It is a perfectly legal transaction, concerned simply with matters of trade in services.

But it transpires that Google does not allow adverts for websites which contain ‘abortion and religious-related content’, and so it has blocked this pro-life advertisement for the Institute’s website – christian.org.uk – because it is a ‘religious’ site. Apparently ‘religion is not "factual" on abortion’.

Setting aside that Google now presumes to judge on epistemological matters (are all its links filtered and censored for ‘factual’ accuracy?), it is curious indeed that it is only when abortion is presented via a religious site that the material is banned: Google permits abortion-related advertisements from the secularists, atheists, irreligious, non-religious and the mentally depraved (if some of these terms are not mutually inclusive). Needless to say, the perspectives of these are overwhelmingly ‘pro-choice’, and all must be considered by Google to be ‘factual’.

But Google does not permit Christians to advertise their pro-life beliefs.

Lawyers for the Institute say this is unlawful discrimination. The charity will argue that Google accepts adverts for abortion clinics, secular pro-abortion sites and secularist sites which attack religion. It wants damages, costs and permission to display the advert.

It is a bizarrely censorious decision by Google, not least because it is also happy to allow adverts for adultery and pornography of all legal types and varieties (it filters paedophilia and bestiality, but as there is not globally-agreed age of consent and as more and more people choose to marry their pets, even these are probably only a temporary prohibition). It even permits the promotion of ‘magic and pagan items’, witchcraft and voodoo, but one must presume that all this New-Age cultic nonsense is undeniably and irrefutably ‘factual’.

Yet Google has banned the Institute’s advertisement for ‘inappropriate content’.

It is heartening to see Christians invoking the very legislation which is presently being used against them to alarming effect. The Equality Act 2006 prohibits religious discrimination in the provision of a good, facilities or services. Google may not therefore treat Christians differently from the way they treat secularists, atheists, etc., etc.

Google’s website states: ‘Google was founded with a clear vision in mind: To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ It is the number one search engine in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and Australia, with over 80 million unique users per month.

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute: said: "Google promotes itself as a company committed to the ideals of free speech and the free exchange of ideas. It is against this standard that Google’s anti-religious policy is so unjust. For many people, Google is the doorway to the internet. It is an influential gatekeeper to the marketplace of debate. If there is to be a free exchange of ideas then Google cannot give special free speech rights to secular groups whilst censoring religious views. To describe abortion and religion-related content as ‘unacceptable content’, while at the same time advertising pornography, is ridiculous."

Quite so.

In this era of pluralism, equality, and mutual tolerance, it is unacceptable that the only views which are not tolerated are those which are founded upon an expression of faith. It seems that even on the World Wide Web, some ideas are more equal than others: those that promote secularism, atheism, and godless amorality trump those which dare to put a Christian case against the sanctity-of-life issues such as abortion or euthanasia.

Ann Widdecombe MP, a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, supports the group in its plight. She said: “It does seem to me to be the most appalling and blatant case of religious discrimination.”

The Christian Institute had hoped to advertise its online articles on pro-life issues ahead of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill arriving in the House of Commons next month.

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