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SEO, Rick Santorum's "spreading" Google problem, and "discrimination" in social media

SEO, Rick Santorum's "spreading" Google problem, and "discrimination" in social media

Rick Santorum is being victimized by SEO.  Just type" Santorum" into Google search and you'll see what we mean. Exactly what Santorum is being linked to cannot be repeated in polite company, and we certainly don't condone this sort of behavior,  but we can explain the process, and how those on the right are complaining that "discrimination" abounds on the Internet.

SEO stands for search engine optimization.  Wikipedia defines it as being:

the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search,[1] news search and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content and HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.

What happened to Santorum is that his last name got linked via SEO to a website on Google, by Dan Savage, a sex columnist who organized an online campaign to come up with a definition for "Santorum" in response to remarks Santorum made in 2003 in an interview with the AP.  Hundreds and hundreds of people created that link.   This is similar to what happened to George W. Bush when he was "Google bombed" and his official White House biography was linked to the phrase "miserable failure" on Google.

Rick Santorum has already complained to Google, asking them to remove it from the Internet.  Google responded:

A Google spokesperson responded to Santorum by advising that users who want "content removed from the Internet should contact the webmaster of the page directly."

"Google’s search results are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the web. Users who want content removed from the Internet should contact the webmaster of the page directly," the spokesperson said. "Once the webmaster takes the page down from the web, it will be removed from Google’s search results through our usual crawling process."

The spokesperson said that Google does not "remove content from our search results, except in very limited cases such as illegal content and violations of our webmaster guidelines."

This prompted Santorum to moan that if it were a Democrat like Biden, Google would do something about it.

Discrimination–or the ghostly image of it, is being complained about by some on the religious right as well.   The Baptist Press in a story today noted a report done by the National Religious Broadcasters that claims that Google, social media such as Facebook, and Apple discriminate against religion through their terms of use policies.  The report, done by NRB entitled the "John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech" clarifies their claims thus (emphasis ours):

Anti-Christian censorship has already occurred on new media platforms.
· Apple has twice removed applications that contained Christian content from its iTunes App Store. In both instances, Apple admitted that these apps were denied access because it considered the orthodox Christian viewpoints expressed in those applications to be “offensive.” One app had expressed the traditional, heterosexual view of marriage as set forth in the Bible; the other had stated the view that homosexuality is inappropriate conduct that can be changed through a Christ-centered spiritual transformation. Of the 425,000 apps available on Apple’s iPhone, the only ones censored by Apple for expressing otherwise lawful viewpoints have been apps with Christian content.
· The search engine giant Google has committed past practices of anti-religious censorship. For content reasons, it refused to accept a pro-life advertisement from a Christian organization, an issue that prompted litigation in England. Google is also alleged to have blocked a website in America that had conservative Christian content. It had blacklisted certain religious terminology on its China-based Internet service, and in the United States it bowed to questionable copyright infringement threats from one religious sect, which had complained when a blog site criticizing it had quoted from the sect’s materials. Google blocked that blog site on alleged copyright violation grounds, disregarding the obvious “fair use” provisions of copyright law. Such a practice could block the ability of Christian “apologetics” ministries to quote from primary source materials when using Google platforms to educate the public on the teachings of certain religious groups. Also, in March of 2011, Google established new guidelines for its “Google for Non-Profits,” a special web tool program, but specifically excluded churches and other faith groups, including organizations that take into consideration religion or sexual orientation in hiring practices.
· Facebook has partnered with gay rights advocates to halt content on its social networking site deemed to be “anti-homosexual,” and it is participating in gay-awareness programs, all of which suggest that Christian content critical of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, or similar practices will be at risk of censorship.

The report goes on for 47 more pages.  Twitter is the only one that passes the freedom of speech litmus test the NRB has set up:

In our opinion, only the policies of Twitter would pass First Amendment muster if they are analyzed according to free speech principles articulated by the Supreme Court.

This issue has to do with what is defined as "hate speech" by social media platforms such as Facebook.  This organization feels the term "hate speech" is defined vaguely, and is "a politically correct term that is often applied in the culture to stifle Christian communicators."

This isn't the first time conservative Christian types have complained of discrimination.  This sort of thing has been going on since George W. Bush was president and even before. The Jeremiah Project calls it "The War on Christianity:"

Never before in American history have Christians experienced being hated for following Jesus Christ as they are today.

While the war on Christianity in America and persecution of Christians has not yet reached the feverish pitch of persecution as it has in other parts of the world, there is a battle being waged. There is still a Constitution in America that protects them and allows them to freely practice their faith. But, broiling beneath the surface, the same hatred of God that exists in other parts of the world is festering in all our institutions. Slowly, methodically, and incrementally the anti-God forces are working to remove that Constitutional barrier and replace it with the 10 Planks of Communism.

It is important to recognize that those engaged in the war on Christianity, working for the dissolution of our society and breakdown of the family have a spiritual agenda. They are not merely attempting to dismantle the historic cultural values of this nation and move us toward a new world order. They also want to destroy Christianity and Bible-based religion. It is a clear part of their agenda, and they have already moved a long way in that direction.

God hating zealots include people like David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Zbig Brzezinsky, and the other politicos, European Royalty, world bankers and CEO’s of multinational corporations who are members of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg group and the Trilateral Commission. Their stated plan is to have a one world government which is opposed to God and Christ.

In America it is called 'secularism' and is becoming visible in all walks of life and in all our institutions. Numerous legislative and legal battles which I'll discuss below attest to the fact that religious warfare is taking place.

The "war on Christianity" has been a favorite ploy of the Republican Party as well.  In 2006, Salon reported in an article entitled "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry GOP" that:

At a messianic "War on Christians" conference, Tom DeLay warned that "the future of man hangs in the balance" as other righteous souls demanded that gay sex be explicitly described to restore "shame."

Introducing Rep. Tom DeLay at the War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006 conference in Washington Tuesday, master of ceremonies Rick Scarborough described him as "the man God has appointed in this last day." The conference began on Monday and was saturated with millennial anxiety. A succession of preachers, talk-radio hosts, religious right operatives and, significantly, major Republican politicians took to the stage at the posh Omni Shoreham hotel to rally the troops for an epic battle between the forces of national renewal and those of vice and enervating perversion. So it wasn't surprising to hear Scarborough, a Baptist preacher who has made it his mission to organize "patriot pastors" for political action, talk about DeLay's legal troubles as part of a culminating war between heaven and hell.

"I believe the most damaging thing Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously in the public office, which made him a target of all those who despise the goals of Christ," said Scarborough, a former college football player and longtime DeLay ally. Taking the stage before the 200 or so adoring activists in the banquet hall, DeLay ran with the end-times theme. "We have been chosen to live as Christians at a time when our culture is being poisoned and our world is being threatened, at a time when sides are being chosen and the future of man hangs in the balance," he said. "The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will."


ABC News reported at about the same time organizers of the very same "War on Christians" conference were telling their congregations that:

the battle lines are being drawn.

"We find ourselves, without question, in the midst of a cultural war," he said. "It's a war on Christians."

His congregants were ready to sign up. "The Bible-believing Christian conservatives are banding together," said Bryant Dunsha, one of the faithful attending the service.

To fight back against the perceived anti-Christian agenda, Hice today attended a two-day conference called "The War on Christians," sponsored by the conservative evangelical group Vision America.

Right Wing Watch has responded to this conference on this supposed "war on Christians, calling it "bogus":

When we covered Vision America’s “War on Christians and Values Voters” conference earlier this year, we noted that the so-called “War on Christians” was little more than a marketing ploy designed to convince right-wing activists that their faith was under attack in order to mobilize them for the November elections.

C]onference attendees and speakers proclaimed themselves convinced that people of faith, especially Christians, are under constant attack by radical secularists, homosexual activists, federal judges, non-believers and “pagans.”

There’s a reason they work so hard to convince others of this.  It’s easier to convince people they should support discrimination against gays and lesbians and hate judges who interpret the Constitution to protect civil rights and liberties such as the right to privacy, if you have first convinced them that gays and judges are out to destroy their faith and religious freedom.  This is a long-term strategy, and in this election year, it is clear that the cries of “victimization” and “persecution” are an attempt to gin up the Republican Party’s right-wing base.

A new article in Christianity Today more or less confirmed our assessment, thanks to a direct quote from the “War on Christians” conference organizer, Rick Scarborough of Vision America.

The article focuses primarily on Rod Parsley and the right-wing political work he is doing via the Ohio Restoration Project’s "Patriot Pastors" network – a group we examined in this recent report.  The bulk of the article covers Parsley’s appearance at Vision America’s “War on Christians” conference, where he outshone dozens of other right-wing leaders with his fanatical rhetoric:

Parsley compared the struggle against the “war on Christians” to the civil rights movement, defiantly shouting that “We [are] not going to the back of the bus … My Father owns the bus line. I will sit where I please!” He promised “freedom at any cost” – “If you think 2004 was something, we have not reached critical mass! We are the largest special interest group! … We’re building order from chaos! We’re fighting the sword with the word! We’re fighting savagery with hope!” Swelling with the force of his own metaphors, he shouted at the crowd, “I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!”

Talking with Scarborough as waiters clear the cups and napkins, it's clear that the conference has been a great success. His new book, Liberalism Kills Kids, sits in stacks on the book table. He has the ear of senators and members of Congress. His editorial in USA Today will appear tomorrow.

But was proclaiming a "War on Christians" putting it a bit too strongly? "We were accused of using hyperbole. I confess we did," Scarborough says with a grin. "Our desire was to get the press exercised."

Apparently, it's working.


About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • alerra

    No group has a right to declare homosexuality as an "immoral" or somehow subversive and wrong act, because of the Civil Rights Act and lots of other US laws and court findings have ruled decisively that gay people have as much right to express themselves and their orientation as anyone else and have **a right to live in this country free from bullying.**

    Google/social media are not censoring religion, they are censoring HATE SPEECH, or the speech of those who declare something is inherently "wrong" or immoral with living as a homosexual person. They would do the same if a site or religion claimed that being "black" or non-white is somehow inherently evil, or if a religion claimed being a woman is somehow evil because of whatever their beliefs are. Why should it be ok for ANY group to moralize about the entire identity of a large group of people, to intimidate others into their beliefs, and to teach their children to hate and perpetuate this hatred?

    I am so sick of this being portrayed as a "free speech" issue when really it is a "hate speech" issue. Hate speech and hate acts are ILLEGAL in the United States. Please don't tell me it's not HATE SPEECH because it comes from the Bible or a religion or some other such nonsense–we label extreme Islam as a "hate group" for their intolerance of (well, a lot), but say, of women's rights. Yet we sit here and teach our children how to perpetuate hatred against gay people, and this is somehow ok?

    No, this is not about "maintaining the fabric of society" or whatever else Christians believe. In fact, if any Christians do believe this, they need to be educated in the Civil Rights Act and laws passed since, they need to be educated in anti-discrimination practices and tolerance, and they need to STOP moralizing modern civil non-theological society based on their ancient religious book which is clearly bigoted in many respects and outdated (just read some of the contradictory stories and about the many ways it says to apply the death penalty for example, or about the rights of women, etc).

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