On February 26, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Internet giants like Google (owns YouTube) and Facebook (owns Instagram) can censor content on their platforms.
Conservatives claim the tech companies have violated their First Amendment rights by removing certain messages or videos, or shutting down their accounts. The court ruled unanimously that these companies are private forums, not public forums, and therefore not subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment.
This ruling means that individuals and organizations cannot sue big Internet tech companies under the First Amendment for decisions on content moderation. In other words, if YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter remove your content or shut down your account, you have little to no recourse.
Maybe you are wondering how this affects you. I think this ruling has some big implications for Christian authors.
1. Your Social Media Account Could be Shut Down or Censored.
As a Christian voice on social media platforms, Christian authors risk being shut out and losing out. I know Christian authors who have had this happen to them on both Facebook and Twitter.
2. Amazon Could Remove Your Book from Its Website.
Last summer, Amazon removed a number of books written by former LGBTQ people, after being pressured by LGBTQ activists. Amazon already limits where ads for Christian books can show up on their website. This Internet giant—that sells about 50% of print book sales and 80% of ebook sales—could choose to not allow any advertising for Christian books or remove more or all of the Christian books from their website.
Jesus told his disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
When it comes to censorship by tech companies on the Internet, this instruction would translate to: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
You are putting all your eggs in one basket if:
- Your books are for sale exclusively on Amazon.
- You mainly rely on social media to promote your books.
Shrewd authors diversify. They make sure all their eggs are not in the same basket by:
- Having their books for sales in multiple outlets online.
- Having a robust website where they collect email addresses and send out regular messages directly to everyone on their list.
Sports enthusiasts will tell you that your best defense is a good offense. The same is true for marketing. An offense-oriented marketing plan utilizes multiple avenues for selling and promoting books. Do you have an offensive marketing plan?
Amazon: Christian Authors Beware
Are You Taking This for Granted?
Censorship: It Could Happen to You
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Photo courtesy of MasterTux.