FAQ: How De-Platforming Can Impact Faith-Based Organizations

Napa Legal Staff
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What happens if a social media provider de-platforms my organization?

If a social media provider de-platforms your organization, you lose some or all access to your account with that provider.[1]

In some instances, your organization’s account might be suspended. If this occurs, you usually receive a generic account suspension notice when attempting to log-in. The notice usually does not identify what specific content violated the company’s policies or explain why the de-platforming took place.  

In other cases, account access might be limited but not fully suspended. In such cases, the social media provider might allow the organization to view historical posts but not publish new content. Conversely, the social media provider might block past posts but allow new content.  

User-organizations can challenge the companies’ decisions through an appeals process. However, efforts outside of the appeals process, such as media coverage, have proven more effective at combatting de-platforming to date. For more information on what to do if your organization is de-platformed, please see Napa Legal’s whitepaper What to Do if Your Nonprofit Relies on Big Tech.

Should we try to avoid being de-platformed? What should my organization do?

Don’t dilute your religious message or succumb to pressure to not share the truth. We need truth more than ever, and the efforts to de-platform highlight that.  

Self-censoring—choosing not to speak for fear of censorship, such as de-platforming—has the same result as being de-platformed: the information that the organization or individual was trying to share is suppressed.  

Rather than acting out of fear, be prudent and plan ahead so that the harm and stress to your organization and audience is minimized. For a step-by-step action plan, please see Napa Legal’s whitepaper What to Do if Your Nonprofit Relies on Big Tech and report De-platforming: The Threat Facing Religious Organizations.

Do all faith-based organizations face the same risk of de-platforming?

Most faith-based organizations face some risk of de-platforming, but some organizations are at greater risk than others. Based on our informal research, at least one faith-based nonprofit, commentator, or leader has been de-platformed each week during 2021.

You should understand your organization’s risk, not in order to self-censor, but rather so you can properly plan for contingencies.  

If the factors below indicate your organization is at high risk, act quickly to implement the actions outlined in Napa Legal’s whitepaper and continue to speak the truth.  

(1) Your Message. If your organization’s mission and content are related to current policy issues, you are at a greater risk of being de-platformed. For example, our research suggests that pro-life organizations, pro-family organizations, Christian organizations addressing human sexuality issues, and faith-based news organizations have been targeted more than organizations focused on serving people experiencing poverty or need.  

(2) Your Social Media Usage. Organizations that post frequently on social media and share substantive content are the most likely to be de-platformed. In contrast, organizations that post occasionally and share only generic information, such as notices for upcoming events, are less frequently de-platformed.  

(3) Company Policy. Most social media platforms hold all the cards. They decide what content is “offensive” and subject to removal under the company’s terms of use or community guidance. Accordingly, the company’s tolerance level for speech on the platform will impact the likelihood a user is de-platformed.2  

What is the reasoning behind social media de-platforming of faith-based organizations?

Faith-based organizations are de-platformed because the content of their messages and beliefs differ from the social media provider’s beliefs.  

From a practical standpoint, the social media provider hosting the platform might first be alerted to the faith-based organization’s content because of an algorithm set to flag certain messages or because of a complaint from a user, then the provider makes the decision to de-platform the user-organization.

Big Tech companies do not have to explain why they de-platform users, so concrete data analyzing why organizations are de-platformed (or later restored) is hard to obtain.  

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[1] De-platforming is a type of censorship that prevents “someone holding views regarded as unacceptable or offensive from contributing to a forum or debate,” according to Lexico. De-platforming can occur in several different ways.