WeeklyTech #139

Free to Tweet? Content Moderation, Religious Freedom, and the Digital Public Square

“If religious freedom is advocated only for pragmatic reasons, it can and will be sacrificed to expediency.” Those words, spoken in 1983 by the late evangelical theologian and ethicist Carl F. H. Henry, were prophetic. They foreshadowed much of what was to come after his death in 2003 as a new digital epoch unfolded, marked by the meteoric rise of social media as one of society’s main communication conduits. And while traditional threats to religious freedom and free expression are still unnervingly prevalent throughout much of the world today, this social media revolution raises a new and pressing question: How can we preserve freedoms of religion and speech in an increasingly digital society, where governments have taken a side seat to transnational technology companies that now wield an outsized influence on the digital public square?

What began as a way to simply connect with others and share innocuous information has now become one of the most important ways we communicate with one another and seek to promote the common good. At the same time, our public square has become increasingly disconnected from a transcendent moral framework and has become allied, instead, to the rampant moral autonomy of our secular age. In this new environment, people of faith must take a hard look at how moral convictions are to be expressed in the public square of today, and work to preserve a robust foundation of religious freedom for future generations.

The Rundown

The tempest over DHS’s Disinformation Governance Board – Aaron Blake | The Washington Post

The Department of Homeland Security’s creation of a Disinformation Governance Board has set off a backlash on the right — even as it’s not entirely clear what the perhaps unfortunately named board will do.

Vatican Offers, Mysteriously Rescinds Interview About Pope’s Metaverse Plans – Maxwell Strachan | Vice

This week, news broke that the Vatican is entering the metaverse and developing an NFT gallery dedicated to the Catholic Church. “The public-private partnership aims to extend the availability of the Vatican’s heritage – manuscripts, masterpieces, and academic initiatives – to people, who otherwise won’t be able to experience it,” a press release stated. 

Who Should Regulate? – Cass R. Stunstein | The New York Review

The question of whether federal agencies or the courts should have the right to interpret legislation may seem technical, but it significantly affects the power of the government.

How schools teach about a war when kids can see it on TikTok – Erica Pandey | Axios

There’s no avoiding it. The war is on TikTok, Instagram and other platforms kids frequent. And how teachers and parents talk with students about global events like this one shapes their views of the world.

USCIRF releases 2022 annual report on international religious freedom – Hannah Daniel | ERLC

The recommendations in USCIRF’s report are based “on its statutory mandate and the standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents.” The report assesses religious freedom violations and progress during calendar year 2021 and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy for both the Biden administration and for Congress.