Church Of England Issues Social Media '10 Commandments': Thou Shalt Not Share 'Alternative Facts'

"There is no such thing as an alternative fact. There is truth. There is absolute truth. There is opinion and there is truth."

"Each time we interact online we have the opportunity either to add to currents of cynicism and abuse or to choose instead to share light and grace," Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook VP for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in a Facebook live posted on the official Church of England Facebook page.

Welby also announced new community guidelines for the Church of England's social media accounts.

Join the Archbishop of Canterbury and Facebook EMEA VP Nicola Mendelsohn as they discuss the role of social media in the Church

Posted by The Church of England on Monday, July 1, 2019

"Social media has transformed the way we live our lives. As Christians we are called to engage in a way which is shaped by the example of Jesus," Welby said in a release. "Each time we interact online we have the opportunity either to add to currents of cynicism and abuse or to choose instead to share light and grace."

During the Facebook Live segment, Welby advised, "When you put something out on social media, put the truth out. There is no such thing as an alternative fact. There is truth. There is absolute truth. There is opinion and there is truth."

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby advises Anglicans to be truthful and positive on social media Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York added that while the Church wishes to be active in the digital sphere, it also wants to be a force for social unity, not disharmony.

"We want to work alongside social media companies in their work to make social media a safe and enlightening space for all."

Sentamu also criticized "cancel culture," a form of boycott called for after someone, usually a celebrity, has shared an unpopular or problematic opinion on social media.

"While there is a time and a place for complaint and criticism, too often today this takes place not to encourage improvement but to vilify an individual or group," he said. "Sometimes it's about counting to ten and asking whether a spiteful statement on social media will change a situation for the better."

The digital charter is a voluntary pledge with six principles guiding how Anglicans should act online: truth, kindness, welcome (not using church jargon to alienate other people), inspiration, togetherness and safeguarding children.

The pledge also asks signers to agree to the Church of England community guidelines, which are more concrete:

  • Be safe — Take care of children and vulnerable adults online.
  • Be respectful — Don't share explicit, hateful or abusive content.
  • Be kind — Follow the golden rule: Treat others how you wish to be treated.
  • Be honest — Don't lie about yourself or share things you know to be false.
  • Take Responsibility — Don't be careless in sharing things online; assume everything is permanent.
  • Be a good ambassador — Your personal posts can reflect on you professionally as well.
  • Disagree well — Disagreement is fine, but fighting is not.
  • Credit others — Always give credit when you post something online, and consider the reliability of the source when you're thinking of sharing something.
  • Follow the rules — If you see posts that break the rules of the platform, report them.

The Church is urging individual Christians and churches to sign the charter as part of a campaign to make social media more uplifting.