google censors christian advert

Yesterday the Christian Institute announced that its lawyers have contacted Google to remind them of their duties under the 2006 Equality Act.

Google has rejected an advert which would have referred readers to the Christian Institute for news and views on UK abortion-related legislation (currently, obviously, highly topical).

The reason they gave was their policy of finding “abortion and religion-related content” to be inappropriate. (Although strangely, the CI’s lawyers’ letter points out that this policy is not given in writing on Google’s policy page.)

Today it seems that Google have clarified their decision by saying that they only allow ads that “have factual information about abortion.”

I’d have quite a lot to say about that, but Cranmer said it quicker and better:

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.

(Read the rest here: The Christians who sued Google.)

Says the doughty Ann Widdecombe: “It does seem to me to be the most appalling and blatant case of religious discrimination.”

Further information and links available from the Christian Institute.

[PS – I know I said I wasn’t going to post anything controversial for the next two months. I hope this won’t be controversial. Feel free to comment but I’m not arguing with anyone :) ]

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5 thoughts on “google censors christian advert

  1. That does seem a bit weird. Although I’d like to point out that as far as I am aware, none of the UK atheist, secular or humanist organisations have ever placed any adverts concerning abortion or family planning advice. Unless Crammer is referring to sex education and family planning organisations which generally try to take a neutral stance and give medical and legal advice without representing any particular religious, political or moral stance on the issue.

    Crammer needs to address the issue with Google and not just randomly attack humanist, secular and atheist organisations. There is no official atheist/humanist/secular stance on abortion. Individuals are encouraged to think about these issues for themselves.

    Cath: I hope this doesn’t count as arguing, I just wanted to put that point straight.

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  2. It sure sounds like this is a case of unacceptable discrimination. Thanks for bringing it up, Cath.

    I thought I’d point out a similar (but probably not religiously-motivated) kerfuffle here in Calgary last week. An anti-abortion student group was refused permission to have an offensively graphic display on one of the campus’s main outdoor thoroughfares:

    http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/city/story.html?id=f41ae88c-42c9-41e5-8693-2aece9666b06

    I’ll be blogging about it soon (next week probably, after I chat with one of the students involved), but from a slightly different perspective than yours.

    Also (and rather tangentially), since you’re a linguist, can you let me know if there’s actually a difference between “irreligious” and “non-religious”? Clare?

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  3. I did a couple of (admittedly not terribly imaginative) google searches and the ads that came up were bpas.org and calthorpe-clinic.co.uk. Cursory skims of their ‘about’ sections doesn’t state a position on whether they’re religious or not, but it seems that would indicate they might be secular, if not actively atheist/related?

    It’s one of the puzzling things that you’d think everyone would agree that people should make up their own minds on such an complex issue, but somehow Google has predetermined that a body with a religious stance on abortion can’t advertise, while bodies with no (obvious) religious connectons can.

    As the Christian Inst points out, the 2006 Equality Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion in the provision of goods, facililties, and services – and it would seem that Google’s stance here is clearly unlawful.

    Graphic images is another thorny issue. I have a hazy memory of tv adverts being banned here in the UK – i think it might even have been during an election campaign, but I can’t remember what came of it. Personally it’s not something i feel very comfortable about – shock tactics in general i suppose. Like some of the campaign material used by anti-vivisectionists – perhaps without the images people wouldn’t in fact realise how horrific many practices are, but you sometimes wonder if it’s really necessary.

    Irreligious/non-religious … mm, not sure! I’ve a feeling that non-religious is more neutral, perhaps for describing people who are uninterested in religion, while irreligious might refer to being opposed to religion? apathetic vs profane? Irreligious would be a subset of nonreligious in that case i suppose!

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  4. The Christian Inst material mentions that a search with “abortion” as the search term brings up an advert from an organisation called Reality Check (i’ve just done that search on google.co.uk and don’t get them but i get Marie Stopes). The lawyers letter to Google says:
    “you are treating the Christian Institute less favourably, on the express grounds of their religion or belief, than others when there is no material difference in the relevant circumstances.”

    There’s also an audio clip of a radio interview which a spokesperson for the Christian Inst did on LBC – the interviewer makes it clear from the start she’s pro-choice, but it’s clear as the interview goes on that abortion isn’t really the issue – it’s basically freedom of speech.

    Also distinctly odd that a religious (or religiously motivated) group should automatically be deemed not to have anything worthwhile to say on particular issues simply because they’re religious. It’s almost incredible that Google would make a public announcement that implies that an organisation like the Christian Inst doesn’t provide factual information simply by virtue of being religious.

    Be interesting to see what comes of it anyway, if it gets to court.

    anyway i’m now off to salvage the rest of my evening, with a nice cup of tea.

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  5. Your family are all hard-core calvinists too?

    So you never get the “well you would say that cos you’re a Christian” thing? my goddaughter now has massive rows with her mother about this. “what do you think of this soup, dear?” “mmm… nice. I wouldn’t have put so much thyme in though, perhaps” “That’s just so intolerant of you, you’re only sayign that because you’re religious”

    Goddaughter looks blank.

    (actually knowing her she probably explodes, and a huge row ensues, but you get the idea)

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