It’s time for the government to regulate platforms to prevent political manipulation through censorship, argued Larry Solov, co-founder and CEO of Breitbart News, in his Center for Constructive Alternatives speech on “Big Tech” Tuesday.
In his talk titled “The Case for Regulation,” Solov shared some of his personal experiences with social media’s censorship of conservative news media. Breitbart has become one of the most popular sources for right-wing, conservative media, largely because of the approach to journalism adopted by the organization’s founder, Andrew Breitbart, who died of a heart attack in 2012.
“Andrew believed that there was no such thing as objective news reporting,” Solov said. “What he meant by that is that point of view is inevitable. As hard as you try to keep out point of view, you can’t.”
According to Solov, Breitbart was frustrated that the mainstream media presented stories under what he called a “false guise of objectivity.” Mainstream media’s decision to pick and choose which stories to report on and then do so while denying any sort of bias presented a concern that Breitbart sought to fix.
“To Andrew, the solution was that you still had to report the truth, but to disclose your point of view to your reader,” Solov said. “Let the consumer be informed of your point of view and then let the reader make the decision as to whether they like your reporting.”
Breitbart News is now one of America’s top news sites, with one of the most engaged Facebook pages worldwide. However, as a prominent media organization with a clear conservative bias, it has more recently run into issues with the electronic media platforms it uses for circulation of its content.
Solov described how Google has “practically purged” Breitbart from its search results. In the run up to the 2020 election, Google decreased the number of times they referred users to Breitbart by approximately 450%. Following the 2016 election, Google suppressed Bretibart’s search visibility by 99.7%. Starting in early May of this year, Google did not once refer a user to a Breitbart story for searches on Joe Biden or Joe Biden-related terms.
Solov also mentioned that Facebook has become increasingly hostile to Breitbart through its new fact-checking program. Several of Breitbart’s stories have been flagged by Facebook’s “third-party fact checkers,” oftentimes simply because the fact-checkers disagreed with the Breitbart authors’ political opinions drawn from often undisputed facts. There is no appeals process to Facebook for such fact-checks.
In response to the widespread censorship and suppression of conservative content on these social media platforms, Solov called for bipartisan support for regulation of the platforms.
“Too many conservatives are, for philosophical and business-theory reasons, against solutions requiring regulation, antitrust, legislation, and government intervention,” Solov said. “When discussing potential solutions, don’t take anything off the table. The only chance of convincing ‘Big Tech’ to govern themselves better is the fear that if they don’t, it’s going to be over for them.”
Senior economics major Michaela Stiles attended the talk, and while she found it interesting and informative, she disagreed with Solov’s suggested regulatory solution to the “Big Tech” problem.
“There is almost no reasonable case to be made for regulation by politicians in the Big Tech industry,” Stiles said. “I personally don’t agree with regulation because it creates unnecessary barriers to entry and eliminates healthy competition. Even if regulation of Big Tech is a good idea, we would have to trust that the politicians are good or well-intentioned enough to create good legislation.”