Following reports that Facebook routinely censors popular conservative news stories and artificially promotes progressive causes like Black Lives Matter on its “Trending News” feature, Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos is today challenging Mark Zuckerberg to a live debate.
Or, if Mr Zuckerberg prefers, a more traditional sit-down interview about free speech online, on Mr Zuckerberg’s own service, Facebook Live.
In a video released today, which can be seen below, Milo calls on Facebook’s chief executive to answer for the social network’s perceived bias against conservative news outlets, to explain why censorship appears to be so rampant on the network, and to challenge him about his co-operation with the German government in suppressing criticism of mass migration.
Zuckerberg indicated yesterday that he would be willing to meet with conservatives to discuss some of these issues in a Facebook post that was widely reported on. Little wonder he’s acting quickly, given that the Senate is now involved.
Facebook has heavily implied that algorithms are responsible for how the site selects “trending” stories. But reports over the last few weeks have revealed that the site is heavily dependent on human editors — editors who appear to share strong liberal biases.
A former Facebook editor specifically named Breitbart as one of the sites whose content Facebook has deprioritised in the past as part of its unofficial “blacklisting” practices.
“Breitbart is one of the most-shared sites on Facebook in the world,”said Yiannopoulos this morning. “We’ve been one of the 25 most-engaged publications on the network for 6 months in a row. Imagine how much higher our numbers would be if Facebook weren’t suppressing our content and ignoring its own users’ enthusiasm for our journalism.
“Conservatives aren’t evil, or selfish, or cruel. We’re not monsters, despite the caricatures of us in places like Silicon Valley. We just have a different vision of how to get to where we all want to go. Censoring and de-prioritising our opinions and our favourite news sources is not on,” he added.
Yiannopoulos, who edits Breitbart’s technology and social justice coverage and was recently profiled by the New York Times magazine warns that unless Facebook addresses mounting concerns of political bias, it could go the way of Twitter, with a declining stock price and “one of the angriest user bases anywhere in technology.”
“Facebook has to do one of two things,” according to the Breitbart editor. “Either rediscover a commitment to First Amendment principles and allow its users to express themselves freely, or be honest with users about Facebook’s biases and let users know that conservatives are going to have a hard time expressing themselves. As a private company, Facebook is entitled to choose either route. But it has to start telling its users the truth.”
Speaking from a hotel gym in Eugene, OR during his year-long nationwide college speaking tour, called the Dangerous Faggot Tour, Yiannopoulos challenged Zuckerberg to explain why he is unable to even mention the name of his tour on Facebook without risking account suspension.
Yiannopoulos continued: “Sometimes the conservative route is longer, harder, less intuitive or less obvious. It doesn’t always give you a nice warm fuzzy feeling right away. But we’re not dangerous. You know what’s dangerous? Suppressing perfectly ordinary and respectable opinions because they don’t match the prejudices of your company’s curation team.”
“Facebook is the worst offender when it comes to censorship, but, unlike Twitter, which is famously opaque and never gives straight answers to questions about free speech, Facebook’s CEO yesterday announced that he would be willing to meet with influential conservatives to discuss their concerns. I hope I’m one of them,” he added.
Earlier this year, Yiannopoulos attended a White House press briefing to ask Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest about censorship and free speech on social media, noting that the late Aaron Swartz, cofounder of reddit, believed that censorship is meaningful in respect of private companies when those private companies hold a monopoly on certain kinds of speech, or invent entirely new public spaces.
Elsewhere, Yiannopoulos has become something of a free speech icon, appearing on Fox News to defend the right to be offensive and staging his Dangerous Faggot Tour, which will stop at 66 American campuses this year, including Rutgers, Dartmouth and Yale.
“In the last year, the cultural libertarian and free speech movements have gained huge momentum,” said Yiannopoulos. “Both resist the language policing and nannying instincts of progressive activists. Increasingly, the trendsetters are the ones out there fighting for free speech in the face of social justice warriors in the media, who are making life miserable for everyone.
“These days, to be punk rock, you have to be a libertarian or conservative. Millennials are waking up to the shortcomings of the Buzzfeed vision of the universe. Let’s see if Facebook is brave enough to get ahead of this trend and stop punishing its users for the opinions they hold and the language they use.”
Yiannopoulos is encouraging followers who want to see the debate to spread this challenge on the #TalkToMilo hashtag.