As Misguided Children reported recently, Facebook has been exposed for favoring liberal stories over conservative ones in the Trending Now section of their news feed. A curator with Facebook revealed to Gizmodo that workers would sometimes be subjective or biased when published news stories to the feed. Even after the curators came forward, the legitimacy of the story was doubted. That has all changed now that a United States Senate Committee has started investigating the story.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which according to Gizmodo has “jurisdiction over media issues, consumer protection issues, and internet communication,” sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg demanding he answer a long list of questions regarding the methods by which Trending Stories are chosen on Facebook. Senator John Thune, chairman of the Committee, said the following according to Reuters:
“If you have a stated policy, which your followers or your audience knows to be the case, that you use an objective algorithm for trending topics – you better follow that policy. It’s a matter of transparency and honesty and there shouldn’t be any attempt to mislead the American public.”
Senate GOP Suffers Backlash
As expected, the Democratic wing of the Senate has slammed the Committee for taking the time to investigate bias on Facebook when so many other, more important issues are at stake. The New York Times published the following statement made by Adam Jentleson, a spokesperson for Nevada Senator Harry Reid:
“The Republican Senate refuses to hold hearings on Judge Garland, refuses to fund the president’s request for Zika aid and takes the most days off of any Senate since 1956, but thinks Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest. The taxpayers who pay Republican Senators’ salaries probably want their money back.”
Indeed, the argument, while flawed, is not entirely without substance. An article on The Federalist calls out the conservative movement for being the champions of minimal government interference in private affairs while praising a move to force Facebook to conform to standards of fairness. If Facebook wants to claim to be an objective news source, then it is up to the people to call them out and broadcast their bias. Government intervention in this matter is a slippery slope. Zuckerberg has even agreed to meet with conservative leaders to discuss the issue, and hopefully it will become a thing of the past. But don’t count on it.