Outkick.com founder and owner Clay Travis has told a House judiciary subcommittee, which deals with antitrust issues, that Facebook deliberately damaged his business by cutting a huge chunk of the site’s traffic a day after he interviewed President Donald Trump back in August.
In his testimony, Travis explained that the site is one of the largest independent outlets dedicated to sports and opinion, while Trump was a guest on his sports radio talk show broadcast nationally, when they discussed the NBA, the NFL, and the need for college sports to resume in the fall.
It’s not clear whether the content of the conversation – which Travis said was not particularly political and focused on sports and how Americans experience it – or Trump’s presence itself triggered Facebook to start drastically limiting the site’s traffic a day after the interview aired.
Travis provided the subcommittee with data that shows Outkick.com had 68 percent of its audience and 76 percent of new users removed by Facebook the day after the conversation with Trump, and during the following week.
This “punishment” incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars of losses to the company, Travis continued, accusing Facebook of engaging in 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,” he told the lawmakers.
Travis went on to talk about other incidents involving the way Facebook treats content it doesn’t like as examples of what he called Big Tech’s “overwhelming power.” Recently, an article published by the site about Johns Hopkins professor Marty Makary’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal was flagged as violating misinformation rules.
This controversy caused the WSJ to come out strongly against Facebook’s policy of using third party fact-checkers to label opinion pieces, and against the fact-checking industry itself.
Speaking before the subcommittee, Travis said that the piece, which predicted the US might acquire herd immunity in April thanks to a combination of the number of people who already had Covid and vaccination, was covered by his site as opinion coming from a highly qualified professional.
But when Outkick.com posted a link to the article, it got flagged for an impossible violation: as “factually incorrect opinion.”
“Our traffic declined by 80 percent as soon as Facebook found this violation,” Travis said.