Today on “The Daily Signal Podcast,” Rob Bluey, executive editor of The Daily Signal, speaks with Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center, the largest media watchdog in America. They discuss the latest news regarding media censorship, including the suppression by Twitter and Facebook of a New York Post article reporting the contents of the hard drive of a laptop the newspaper alleges belonged to Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
We also cover these stories:
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talk by phone about another COVID-19 relief package for Americans.
- The Supreme Court says it will hear a case on whether military funding may be used to pay for building President Donald Trump’s wall along the border with Mexico, and whether those claiming asylum in the U.S. must stay in Mexico pending resolution of their requests.
- The Canadian border will remain closed to Americans for at least another month.
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Rob Bluey: Your organization has been very busy of late. It seems like there’s not a day that goes by where there isn’t something to expose or cover. And you’ve been doing it now for over 33 years, but lately it seems that your attention has turned to what’s going on with big tech and platforms like Facebook and Twitter and Google are increasingly shaping how Americans get their news.
So I want to start with this, last week we saw two of those, Facebook and Twitter, impose some restrictions or outright censorship on a New York Post story regarding Hunter Biden. Can you tell us your reaction to what happened and why the American people should be troubled about it?
Brent Bozell: Sure. Let’s look at the numbers first. Facebook has an audience of 2.7 billion people worldwide. Twitter is a the news source worldwide for everyone today. If you want to get your story out, you can go to NBC News and they have 4 million, or you could go to Facebook.
Remember this statistic, they asked young people, where do they get their news? They didn’t say ABC News. They didn’t say The New York Times. Sixty-eight percent said Facebook. That’s how powerful these tech companies are today. Much more powerful than the traditional news media.
So out comes this story. It is explosive. This is a story that ought to be covered or would be covered day and night if this were Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump Sr.
If Donald Trump Sr. were the big guy and Donald Trump Jr. … was having these crazy parties and going to these countries and walking away with these massive deals, every network would be camped outside the White House right now covering this. And yet it’s crickets.
So along comes Facebook. Facebook, for example, Facebook first censors this. Here’s the remarkable thing, Facebook has a policy, a very public policy, where it does not censor anything like this. They had a fact-checking operation that they turned this over to and they have nine fact-checkers. None of them were consulted on this.
Facebook did this, broke their own rules, so much so, at the Poynter Institute, which is one of these organizations that does do the fact-checking, blasted Facebook, blasted them for breaking their own rules.
So this was really disingenuous. This shows the extent to which Facebook does not want that story up. They didn’t wait for fact-checkers. There’s nothing wrong with the story. They just said, “We’re not going to run it and that’s that.”
Bluey: Well, Brett, you recently launched Free Speech America and a corresponding called CensorTrack.org. Can you tell us more about what you’re doing and how it impacts the work that you just spoke about?
Bozell: Sure. As the numbers … showed, and I was saying a minute ago, this big tech empire needs to be brought into its proper perspective. It needs to be stopped.
I gave you the numbers for Facebook and Twitter. Look at YouTube. There are 5 billion, that’s a “B,” 5 billion videos that are aired every day on YouTube. Google controls 92% of search engines in the world today.
So what does that mean? Well, if you’re Dennis Prager and you’ve got this incredible operation where you’ve got these videos that are just top-shelf, that could be run at SMU or Yale or some such place, they’re that good quality and they’re demonetized by YouTube.
And they come up with those incredible excuses for it. He does one on the Ten Commandments and they say it’s too violent because of the fifth commandment. And they take down, they demonetize it.
Google. Google has been burying conservatives. Dr. Robert Epstein did a study, he’s a liberal Democrat, … showing how by manipulation of the data, Google moved up to 3 million votes from [Donald] Trump to [Hillary] Clinton in the last election cycle.
And how, and he’s shown that in this election cycle, … Google is going to be able to move up to 15 million votes from the Trump camp to the [Joe] Biden camp through data manipulation.
This is serious stuff. This is far more serious than anything we’ve ever seen before. This shows that these tech companies have the power to decide who will and who won’t be the president of the United States. And if that doesn’t scare people, nothing will. That’s why we started Free Speech America.
Bluey: And the website, CensorTrack.org, is an excellent resource. I have been talking about for years, the need for a comprehensive database, with examples, specific examples of anti-conservative bias.
We’ve actually shared with your team examples from both The Heritage Foundation and The Daily Signal of when we’ve encountered that.
So as you’ve looked at these examples, do you have for our audience what the worst platform is, and if there’s a particular type of content that they tend to target most?
Bozell: Well, first of all, thank you for what you said about CensorTrack.
We have so far documented and we analyze all the examples that come to us because sometimes, Rob, they’re not right. Sometimes somebody is crying “censorship” when in fact that person didn’t have good content or that person didn’t know how to do it correctly. And so we do go out of our way to investigate these.
We’ve come up with over a hundred examples of deliberate and a bias against conservatives. I’ll show you one, it just came out today. We just posted it today.
Facebook and Twitter, about 99% of this is Twitter, since the start of the campaign have banned Trump material 65 times. Guess how many times they’ve banned Biden material?
Bluey: Probably significantly less than that.
Bozell: Not once.
Bluey: Not once?
Bozell: Not once—65 to zero. Tell me that there’s no bias there. Tell me that there’s no agenda when it’s 65 to nothing. We documented it there.
So what are some of the worst examples? Thematically our message to the pro-life movement is that you’re enemy No. 1, the public enemy No. 1.
The media, the tech companies despise the pro-life movement. They want nothing to do with the pro-life movement. Imagine this, the pro-life movement wasn’t able to put ads on Facebook advertising the right to life march, weren’t allowed to do even that.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn had ads that were supporting the right to life movement removed from Facebook. It’s happened. Live Action has had it’s stuff suspended.
And then finally, there’s the Covington kid, look what happened to him. … Facebook, if they believed in God, what they should be doing is getting on their knees and thanking them for Section 230 protection from libel and slander.
Because if you think that the Covington kid had a case against The Washington Post, where reportedly he got a very nice settlement, and is going after everyone else that slandered him, imagine what would be the trouble Facebook and Twitter and all the rest would be in if they didn’t have that protection and they were held to the same standards as everyone else. My God, that kid would be very, very wealthy today.
Bluey: Brent, … sometimes you do hear charges from the left, that, “Oh, no, this is something that we encounter as well.” I think that’s why it’s so important to have those specific examples.
I was going to reminisce for a moment. You and I, in 2016, had the opportunity to meet with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook headquarters in California. I think both of us left that meeting at least encouraged that he was listening or open to listening to our ideas and making some changes. And yet here we are four years later, and it seems that things are even worse than they were then.
Where do you think things have gone wrong? And is there an opportunity to change the culture at these companies, which seem to be dominated by those on the left?
Bozell: I believed Mark Zuckerberg, as I think you did. I think that he, I mean, look, the very first thing he said to us was, “We don’t know who you are.” The second he said was, “Remember, you’re sitting at ground zero of leftism in America.”
Those were two huge opening acknowledgements that he made. He didn’t play any games as to where philosophically everyone stood on both sides of the table and proceeded to talk about his desire for Facebook to be the open marketplace of ideas.
And at the discussion we were having at that time was what kind of oversight and fact-checking ought to be advanced. And I pushed afterward the idea that there should be none.
If you want it to be the open marketplace of ideas, what you do is you do censor egregious criminal activity, you do censor pedophilia, you do censor terrorism. There are things, clear-cut things that you censor, but that’s it.
Stay out of the business of deciding what is morally true or not beyond that. What is or what isn’t hate speech. Who is and isn’t allowed to be on … the open marketplace of ideas, as he said he was going to do.
And he did, they got rid of all of these people, and they announced that. But, it’s, I guess, like hemorrhoids, they keep coming back and you can’t get rid of them. That’s the culture of these tech companies, dominated probably 99% by leftists working in there.
And here’s another thing, Rob. So many of these are great, basically young brats, these are 20-something millennials that understand they’ve got a huge amount of power.
They don’t care what the corporation does or doesn’t do. They don’t care the damage that they’re causing. They’re the ones that are shadow-banning on Twitter. They could care less what that might do to [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey and the stock of Twitter. They just know that they have the ability to screw conservatives.
So there’s an arrogance coming out of there. There’s an elitism that is coming out of there. And I don’t know, I really don’t know that you could change that because if you’re one conservative and speak out, you’re fired the next day.
Bluey: Yeah. It’s certainly troubling. You’ve mentioned fact-checking a couple of times now, and Facebook seems to have weaponized fact-checking in a way that unfairly targets conservatives.
If you are a conservative publisher today, what are the things that you need? Or frankly, a conservative organization, because I know they went after the American Principles Project for an ad that they were running in Michigan using a fact check as the reason to take it down.
So what are some of the things that we as conservatives need to be aware of when it comes to these fact checks?
Bozell: Understand how it’s evolving. It’s currently like so many government issues, where the more government tries to fix something, the worse it gets.
Think about campaign finance reform. It’s the same thing that has taken place with Facebook. The more they try to fine tune fact-checking, the worse it’s becoming.
They agreed to have fact-checking, OK. They brought in nine organizations, wonderful. One’s a conservative, eight are liberals, and that to them is balanced. So conservatives complained about that and raised hell about that. So solution, they’ve come up now with an oversight board.
Because look, remember this, Rob, they’re not an American corporation. Oh, they may be incorporated in Delaware somewhere, but that’s not what they think they are. They consider themselves a global community. They use that term all the time.
Why is that important? Because their values are not American values. Their values are more the European model that puts virtue over freedom, where we put freedom over virtue.
Problem with their virtue over freedom, which I might agree with except their virtue is very different than my virtues, their virtue is gay rights, their virtue is abortion, their virtue is no guns, their virtue is no freedom of speech.
They don’t subscribe to the American model, which is based on the Constitution, which says you have a First Amendment, you have a Second Amendment, etc., etc. They don’t subscribe to that. That’s why their attitudes are different.
So they bring in this oversight board. They’ve announced 20, the first 20 of the 40 members. Now this oversight board, according to Facebook, has the last say. So if you appeal a fact-checker, it goes to the oversight board.
Rob, if you look at this oversight board, you will see the real ethos of Facebook. Of the 20, 19 are left-wing, 19 out of 20. There’s only one who could be seen as a conservative and he’s just a straight shooter. And he’s one of the Americans. There are five Americans. …
If The Daily Signal is censored by one of the fact-checkers and appeals, it now goes to the oversight board. Here’s one of the rubs, five anonymous oversight members will look at the Daily Signal case. Only one of them can be an American.
So four out of five are people who don’t subscribe to the values of The Daily Signal of America. So you’ve got an 80% chance of having your appeal squashed. Before you even start it’s an 80% chance.
Further to this, if you look, and we have, … at these oversight people, one after another has ties to George Soros. Just extraordinary.
The operation that is running this thing is headed by a fellow who was funded by George Soros and the last operation. So George Soros has his hands all over this oversight business.
So the answer in one sentence to you is: Conservatives have to understand that the whole deck of cards is stacked against them.
Bluey: Conservatives are also having a robust policy debate about certain remedies that they may be able to enact.
President Trump, for instance, has called for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. I know that others fear that a future Democratic president may use that against conservatives in certain ways.
So how do you balance some of the free-market pressure with government action? What are some of the thoughts that you have on that right now?
Bozell: OK. Let’s look at Section 230. I simply don’t understand, though, anybody who says that Section 230, doing something about it somehow gives government more power. In fact, it takes away power from the federal government. This is something conservatives ought to embrace. Question is, how do you do it? And what do you do exactly?
There are several bills that now are coming forward, which are all good. They maybe need debating around the edges, but they’re 95% good, not 100% good.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn has come up with one with Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Their bill I like so much because it doesn’t take away Section 230 protection.
It gives the section 230 protection, which again, makes them immune to libel issues, provided they behave and providing their behavior. The bill outlines specifically what they’re allowed to censor and anything else, if it doesn’t and if it isn’t reasonably objective, if they can’t prove it’s quote-unquote, “reasonably objective,” then they lose their Section 230 protection. Just as simple as that.
You can do those things, terrorism, egregious violence, pedophilia, but nothing more. And anything else you do, you don’t have protection for it. And so if you do something that’s libelous, you’re going to be held to account. I like that.
That’s a very, very clean thing because it allows them to do what they ought to be doing and getting protection for it and penalized if they don’t do what they’re supposed to be doing. I think that’s a very simple solution. I think people really ought to get behind that.
Now, the second one is … [an] antitrust one. Now, that’s dicier because there’s a conservative debate on that, on antitrust legislation, there’s a difference of opinion.
Some people believe that’s interference by government. Other people believe that that is how you defend the free market, the free enterprise system. So there’s a debate among conservatives.
But clearly, clearly there is a very much a move to break these companies up with the argument that you can’t compete. If Facebook wants something, Facebook gets something. If Google wants, they swallow something.
To show you how powerful Google is, Microsoft tried to challenge Google. They spent gazillions of millions or billions of dollars … on Bing. And they captured 2% of the market. Not even they were able to do it.
And it’s not just those big four. It’s all the other ones. Instagram has got a billion followers on it. It’s the service industries, it’s Microsoft is getting involved. Amazon is getting involved. Apple is getting involved with different acts of censorship. So you want to compete with Apple? Good luck, fella, when they’ve got a trillion dollars in cash.
So there really is a conversation that’s taking place and saying, are these giants, these are the biggest corporations in history, in the world, are they a fourth estate in American politics today? I think they are.
Bluey: And Brent, I want to end with this one because it goes right to the heart of what you just said. I hear from social media users all the time about censorship. They’re writing to me telling me they’d been banned or their reach is limited or some cases they’ve just given up because they are fed up with how they’re treated by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, you go down the list. What is your advice to them? What can they do?
Bozell: I will tell them first, it’s worse than they think, because they’re talking about instances of censorship they’ve caught. For everyone that’s been caught, how many have not been caught? God only knows. Is shadow-banning continuing? How do we know it’s not continuing?
Think about this one, Rob, can you name me a single act of censorship that was disclosed by the company committing a censorship? When they’re caught, and they’re always caught, they always have, well, it was a technical snafu, but they themselves supposedly had never caught their own technical snafus. It’s always someone who was censored who caught it.
So just think about that one for a second and you’ll know how deliberate this thing is.
People have to realize how important this is. People need to understand that it should be the No. 1 priority of anyone who supports liberty.
You can’t have democracy if you have this, if you have an uneducated public, if you’ve got a public that’s been manipulated to think in a way, and this is big brother stuff. I mean, this is dangerous, dangerous stuff going on.
People have to become very outspoken. They need to go to their legislators. They need to go to them and say, “There has to be a remedy.” …
Look, I’m a libertarian conservative, I hate the federal government. I hate turning to them for anything, 50/50 national defense. So I don’t want them for anything, but this is one of the few times where the federal government has to look at this and understand that this is a threat to freedom.
So what I tell our supporters, tell people all over the country, get involved in this. This is the biggest internal threat to freedom in the history of the republic.
Bluey: Brent Bozell, thanks for your leadership of the Media Research Center. The new initiative is called Free Speech America and the website is CensorTrack.org. Thank you for joining “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Bozell: Thank you so much, Rob. Thank you for everything you do.