Vimeo voids Christian videos
Religious Liberty | The sharing site is one of multiple web platforms to censor Biblical messages
by Bonnie Pritchett
Posted 3/31/17, 01:28 pm
Vimeo, a leading online film production and sharing outlet, pulled the entire 850-count video catalog of Pure Passion ministry this month after determining the video content “demeaned” homosexuals. David Foster, founder and executive director of Pure Passion, disputes the allegation and said Vimeo simply did not like his ministry’s message that Jesus saves and heals all sexual brokenness.
Foster’s encounter with the web-based platform is nothing new, according to a spokesman for National Religious Broadcasters. It is part of a disturbing trend of censorship of conservative and Christian messages online by new media, or sharing sites that bypass traditional channels to reach an intended audience, the NRB and other observers say. With no laws forcing new media to host all content, online ministries like Foster’s are at the mercy of secular progressive gatekeepers.
Since 2009, Vimeo has hosted Pure Passion’s videos featuring testimonies of redemption and healing from sexual brokenness related to, among other issues, sexual abuse, sex trafficking and homosexuality. In December, Foster received an email notification from Vimeo warning him that some of the ministry’s videos violated the platform’s content standards.
In March, Foster asked for a list of the videos in question. An email response listed only four videos. But those were enough to indict all Pure Passion content.
“Your statement equating homosexuality to ‘sexual brokenness’ betrays the underlying stance of your organization,” the email stated. “To put it plainly, we don’t believe that homosexuality requires a cure and we don’t allow videos on our platform that espouse this point of view. We also consider this basic viewpoint to display a demeaning attitude toward a specific group, which is something that we do not allow.”
Vimeo Communications Manager Caitlin Hughes would not answer questions about the removal and only offered a link to the website’s page entitled, “How does Vimeo define hateful, harassing, defamatory, and discriminatory content?”
According to the site, Vimeo forbids content promoting “sexual orientation change efforts” and “coded or veiled” language attacking ethnic or religious minorities.
“Cuz that’s not what Vimeo’s about,” the site concluded.
Foster said his own brokenness led to him to live a double life. Just out of college he became a successful actor and male prostitute. But it wasn’t reparative therapy that changed his life, he said, and Pure Passion does not promote the practice. He said the ministry looks at “the wounds, traumas and neglects of life” to determine why people fall into “sinful, painkilling behaviors.” The healing, he said, comes through faith in Christ.
Vimeo’s objection to some of the ministry’s content was an excuse to expunge the entire message of Pure Passion from the platform, Foster said. Citing the sexual and violent content among the millions of videos hosted by the website, Foster accused Vimeo management of taking selective offense.
On its “Frequently Asked Questions” page Vimeo states: “Of course, Vimeo respects creative expression above all else. That’s why we allow depictions of nudity and sexuality that serve a clear creative, artistic, aesthetic, or narrative purpose.”
NRB founded the John Milton Project to track incidents of viewpoint discrimination and censorship on new media platforms. The six-year project highlights increasing censorship of Christian and conservative speech. Aaron Mercer, vice president of government relations for the National Religious Broadcasters, told me much of the information they have comes from people like Foster who are willing to go public with their battles against the new media Goliaths like Vimeo with its 25 million members and 170 million viewers worldwide.
The John Milton Project list of censorship offenders includes Facebook, Google, Twitter, GoFundMe, and Apple. Mercer said many instances of censorship go unreported.
Author and radio show host Dennis Prager has been fighting a battle against Google-owned YouTube—a fight the video-streaming platform refuses to acknowledge. Prager co-founded PragerU, an online site featuring five-minute tutorials on a host of topics that push back against liberal social and political narratives.
In October, YouTube without warning changed the rating status of 21 videos to “restricted,” limiting access to them due to filter settings on some computers. Prager cried foul, but despite media attention and a 100,000-plus-signature petition, the restricted status has not changed.
“YouTube has not responded to us or even made any public comment as to their restriction of conservative content,” Jared Sichel, communications director for PragerU, told me. “We did notice, though, that YouTube swiftly apologized to the LGBT community when it was revealed that YouTube was restricting some LGBT videos.”
Because new media outlets are privately owned, those who find themselves ousted from a platform have little to no legal recourse. Foster asked Christian legal organizations to champion his cause in court but was turned down because his case does not involve government censorship.
“If these corporations want to contest ideas expressed in a lawful manner, then why not address them using their accounts on their platforms? What message does it send to crush opposing viewpoints?” Mercer said. “Let good ideas rise to the top through respectful dialogue.”
Bonnie reports on First Amendment freedoms for WORLD Digital.