Freedom of expression, whether in speech or in the press, is a key indicator of a country’s health, Pope Francis told journalists in the Vatican Saturday.
“Let us not forget that one of the first measures taken by dictatorships is to eliminate freedom of the press or to ‘disguise it,’ not leaving the press free,” the pope warned members of the Foreign Press Association.
The pontiff’s words followed a week of reports of censorship of free speech by major social media platforms, which seem aimed at silencing opinions that do not conform to reigning globalist groupthink.
In a particularly egregious and overt act of political censorship, Facebook shut down 23 major pro-populist webpages in Italy just two weeks prior to the European elections. The suspended pages had a combined total of 2.46 million followers and 2.44 million interactions throughout the last three months.
Italian media reported that the vast majority of these pages supported the populist parties La Lega (The League) and the 5-Star Movement (M5S), which currently govern Italy in a coalition government and are poised to take a significant number of seats in the European elections.
Facebook has justified this drastic measure by claiming the sites shared fake news, so-called “hate speech,” and “divisive content.” Facebook also claimed that some of the sites had changed names, initially suggesting themes that did not appear to allude to political parties or movements.
In early May, the social media giant set up a “war room” in Dublin devoted full time to the European electoral campaign, with “40 teams of engineers, scientists, researchers, threat specialists, and experts for each country” ready to censor unacceptable material, Italian media reported.
This past week, Facebook also censored a pro-life ad campaign in Ireland on the grounds that the image of an unborn child constitutes “graphic” or “violent” imagery.
The Dublin-based Iona Institute for Religion and Society launched a Facebook ad campaign called “still one of us,” a year after the passing of an Irish referendum that removed constitutional protections for the unborn. In its campaign, Iona used the picture of a human fetus in the womb, which Facebook proceeded to black out, replacing it with the warning “This photo may be sensitive to some people.”
Meanwhile, a Christian watchdog group sent out a report accusing Big Tech of censorship targeting Christians and social conservatives, claiming that the endgame of the censorship is disruption of the democratic process.
“Twitter applies its ‘rules of conduct’ unequally,” wrote Ryan Bomberger, founder of the Radiance Foundation. Bomberger went on to list a series of known conservatives who have recently had their accounts either suspended or completely deactivated.
“How many liberals decry having their Twitter accounts suspended? None,” he said.
“Big Tech always preaches about treating people equally, but the tech companies never do. Funny how their ‘algorithms’ never seem to suspend liberals’ accounts. The religion of Inclusion is a fraud,” Bomberger stated.
“Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple — they’re totalitarian tech,” Bomberger said. “This is all just a pre-game show. They’re merely ramping up for the 2020 elections, purging what they’re bogusly calling ‘misinformation’ and ‘extremism’ to clear the Democrats’ path of ideological obstacles.”
In his address to journalists Saturday, Pope Francis cited his predecessor, St. John Paul II: “The Church is on your side. Whether or not you are Christian, in the Church you will always find the proper esteem for your work and the recognition of freedom of the press.”
“We need journalists who are on the side of the victims, on the side of those who are persecuted, on the side of those who are excluded, rejected, discriminated against,” Francis said.
“You and your work are needed to be helped to not forget so many situations of suffering, which often do not have the light of the spotlight, or they have it for a moment and then return to the darkness of indifference,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome