The owner of a sports and opinion website testified Friday before a House Judiciary subcommittee that Facebook removed a large portion of its audience and new users after he interviewed former President Donald Trump about the need to resume college sports.
Clay Travis, founder of Outkick.com, told a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, that Facebook tanked his website’s traffic a day after then President Trump appeared on his radio show.
I appreciate you having us here to talk about an incredibly important subject that impacts all of us – Democrats, Republicans, independents alike. Nearly 10 years ago, I started my own company having no idea what direction media was going to move. That company, Outkick.com, is now one of the largest sports and opinion independent websites in the country. We’ve had a great deal of success.
I also host a daily sports talk radio show from 6 to 9 am Eastern all 50 states 300 plus AM/FM stations, and on August the 11th, the president of the United States came on my radio program. He came on because he wanted to talk about the need for college football and college sports to be played this fall – not a particularly partisan issue. We talked about the NBA. We talked about the NFL. We talked about sports as the nation experiences sports.
The day after the president came on my radio show, we covered that day – August the 11th – the stories that came out of that interview aggressively as anyone would who had the president of the United States on their radio show. The day after that interview, Facebook tanked our traffic. The data in the appendixes that we attached for you show that the next day and over the next week, Facebook removed 68 percent of our audience, 76 percent of our new users.
That cost my company hundreds of thousands of dollars. To me, it was clear content-based speech discrimination. Facebook didn’t like that we had the president of the United States on our radio program, and they also didn’t like that the majority of the coverage of that interview was positive, which as a sports fan, it’s hard to be negative when the favor of the president is aligned with games actually being played.
That to me is an interesting anecdote into the overwhelming power that we have given to the Big Tech companies in this country. It doesn’t stop there either. There’s an interesting thing that happened to us just in the last couple of weeks.
Travis also testified that Facebook also flagged as a “misinformation violation” his website’s coverage of an editorial by Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins University.
As CNSNews.com previously reported, Makary predicted that the United States would reach herd immunity by April due to the number of people who had been vaccinated and who have already been exposed to COVID.
Some of you may have read an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by a man named Dr. Makary who is a Johns Hopkins doctor, highly qualified. His opinion written on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal newspaper, his opinion was that based on the current rate of vaccination as well as the people who had already been exposed to COVID, it was likely by the end of April that herd immunity would be reached in this country.
Certainly, some scientists and doctors agree with that. Certainly, some scientists and doctors disagree with that opinion.
We wrote about that editorial opinion on our website. The article was not in any way complicated or difficult. In fact, our headline was straight forward: ‘Johns Hopkins Medical Professional: Herd Immunity Will Be Here by April.’ We published that on Facebook. Within a matter of days, we received a notification on Facebook with the downright Orwellian subject: Important Notification: Misinformation Violation.
Facebook told us that we were not allowed to share the opinion of a doctor on our website, because they said it was a fact check inaccuracy. It was, members of the subcommittee, an opinion, an opinion of a reasoned and well-learned doctor. That is what the scientific method is. We argue about what the truth is in this country with an idea that we reach a better conclusion. Facebook’s own fact-checkers labeled our article about an opinion to be factually inaccurate, which is an impossibility.
Who checks the fact-checkers? Our traffic declined by 80 percent as you can see as soon as Facebook found this violation. We would all be rightly concerned if the government of the United States was making these kinds of decisions. My concern is all of the big tech companies now have the same power that China has to regulate the internet in its country. Instead of the government doing it, we have allowed Big Tech to do it.
Editor’s Note: This piece was first published on CNSNews.com.