Five faculty members joined forces March 8 to discuss “Freedom of Speech or Censorship in the World of Big Tech” as a part of BJU’s faculty forum series in Stratton Hall. The panel included Matt Gardenghi, Jeanine Aumiller, Jennifer Miller, Dr. Eric Newton and Dr. Gary Weier.
A New Perspective
The panel discussed key issues that relate to big tech, freedom of speech and censorship. Weier, vice president for academic affairs and the moderator, said he hopes students left better informed about what the U.S. Constitution says about freedom of speech and the limits of free expression.
“I want students to leave equipped with practical and biblical wisdom that will help them understand our times and a good understanding of what they can do in today’s world,” Weier said.
Weier and the other faculty on the panel believe that the first step to understanding freedom of speech is examining the first amendment. Miller, a Department of Communication faculty member, read and analyzed the amendment during the event.
“The U.S. Constitution says that Congress shall make no law. For the first time in history, the Constitution granted individuals the right and duty to govern the government,” Miller said. “It doesn’t necessarily grant freedom of speech. It restricts the government.”
The World of Big Tech
One of the night’s most discussed topics was big tech and its impact on Christians. Gardenghi, director of IT operations and academic technology, hopes that the faculty forum helps students balance the world of technology and Christianity.
“I wanted students to pursue their rights as Americans, but only until that pursuit inhibited their service for Heaven,” Gardenghi said. “Big tech companies have the ability to impact global economics, societal policies and directions, and shift political outcomes. With this much power over our daily lives, students should not wander through life allowing these companies to shape their futures.”
Gardenghi discussed how big tech companies have the power to influence the world. He explained that most people assume that the top Google results are the most accurate, but that is not always true. Companies like Google change the results to change how you view the world.
“For example, if you search for CEOs on Google images, a majority of the image results will be men. But if Google disagrees with that and thinks more women should be CEOs, they are going to actively change it so you see more pictures of women as CEOs,” Gardenghi said.
The panel had mixed views on social media. Gardenghi recommended that we delete social media and focus on person-to-person interaction. However, Aumiller, also a Department of Communication faculty member, does not think deleting social media is the way to go.
“I don’t think the solution is to leave platforms to go to more conservative platforms. I don’t think there’s any issue with talking to people who are like minded, but it limits you. It is good to know what is going on in the world,” Aumiller said.
A Christian Worldview
The panel agreed that as Christians we should analyze how we are using technology. Newton, a faculty member in BJU Seminary, believes our Christian values should be our priority.
“As Christians, we need to recognize that all of us are American. We are all communicators and users of big tech. We have to ask ourselves where our loyalty and allegiance lie,” Newton said. “As believers, we should sit up and consider how we are using technology.”
Jocelyn Brazeal, a junior Mathematics education student, appreciated the faculty’s insight. “Christians have always valued free speech as a way to spread the Gospel. Now, as big tech seems to threaten this constitutional right, it is easy to either give up or give way to helpless anger at the injustice of it,” she said.
“The faculty forum gave us the valuable reminder that neither of these options is a Christ-like response. Even as we value and seek appropriate channels to uphold our rights, we should be responding to the hostility of others with discernment and humility.”