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Facebook's Trending Section Is Now the Business of US Senate Commerce Committee

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) wants answers from Mark Zuckerberg and company over allegations of political bias in curated news feed.

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Everything is Commerce
Brian Solis/Flickr

In response to yesterday's news that several ex-Facebook news curators had alleged systemic political bias regarding the stories and outlets permitted to receive a plum spot in the social media giant's Trending news section, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has written a letter on behalf of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Communication to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Writing that "Facebook has enormous influence on users' perceptions of current events, including political perspectives," Sen. Thune says if Facebook's claim of using a "neutral, objective algorithm" based on users' organic sharing of news stories to maintain "a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum" is false, this would constitute "mislead[ing] the public," which he says lies within the Committee's oversight authority. 

Facebook issued a statement this morning denying the allegations that it suppressed conservative news and that it "artificially forced ?#?BlackLivesMatter? to trend."

A partial list of the questions and data requested by Thune are below:

  • Have Facebook news curators in fact manipulated the content of the Trending Topics section, either by targeting news stories related to conservative views for exclusion or by injecting non-trending content?
  • What steps is Facebook taking to investigate claims of politically motivated manipulation of news stories in the Trending Topics section? If such claims are substantiated, what steps will Facebook take to hold the responsible individuals accountable?
  •  Does Facebook maintain a record of curators' decisions to inject a story into the Trending Topics section or target a story for removal? If such a record is not maintained, can such decisions be reconstructed or determined based on an analysis of the Trending Topics product?
  • If so, how many stories have curators excluded that represented conservative viewpoints or topics of interest to conservatives? How many stories did curators inject that were not, in fact, trending?
  •  Please provide a list of all news stories removed from or injected into the Trending Topics section since January 2014.

In the letter to Zuckerberg, Thune requested this information by "no later than May 24," and also asked for the "employees responsible for Trending Topics" to appear in Washington to brief the Committee.

Ironically, Thune has repeatedly voted against the reinstating of the "Fairness Doctrine," the law that required the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce equal time for competing political view points. 

In 2007, Thune wrote that he wanted to "preserve the vibrant marketplace of ideas" and that "giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for an Orwellian disaster." Discussing the amendment he proposed be added to the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill to "prohibit the FCC from using any funding in Fiscal Year 2009 to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine," Thune wrote, "Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for an Orwellian disaster."

The senator was right then, and he's wrong now.

Facebook is a private company with the right to provide services to its customers — who use the product for free — in whatever way it sees fit. Conservative entreprenuers are free to start their own social media websites and impose ideological purity tests on the news items they choose to promote. There is simply no reason to make a federal case out of what is essentially headline aggregation. 

Thune's demand that Facebook release internal documentation is a time-consuming, costly imposition on the way the company chooses to do business, but calling senior staffers to Washington, DC so they can be grilled by a Republican-led senate committee is absurd.

But since a great many congressional hearings exist only to provide valuable TV face-time for the committee members, Thune may very well be hoping to have his moment in the spotlight where he can accuse hoodie-wearing Silicon Valley millennials of brain-washing the public into accepting their political worldview. 

The threat of a federal investigation into a social media website over how it shares its content could have a chilling effect on the free expression of other media, as well. Imagine a Democratic-led Commerce Committee investigating Fox News because it found the network's claim of being "Fair and Balanced" to be misleading, and thus, worthy of a congressional investigation. In the public interest, the government could take any media company's mission statement, decide that it is misleading, and order an inquiry. 

(Note: This post has been updated since originally being published.)

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  1. Fuck Congress.

  2. “MYOB, kthxbai.

    – Mark”

    In an alternate universe…

  3. I’m sure there’s enough plausible deniability so that management is not hurt by the complaints? maybe they can can simply blame a few low level employees who did this on their own initiative.

    1. They shouldn’t have to justify anything!

      It’s the fucking first amendment, bitches! Facebook could promote a pure stream Marxist propaganda as the only thing that was “trending” and that would be their right.

      1. Unless they’ve lied to their paying customers about how that process works in a way that materially lessens the value of advertising placed in such a product. That’s fraud.

        1. After we finish prosecuting facebook for fraud, we should go after oxyclean for implying that that they remove all stains perfectly in their ads!

          1. Settle down, cowboy. I’m not part of the lynch mob. I’ve always assumed that I’m being manipulated by social media. I’ve priced it into my consumption. I’m just saying that fraud is not protected speech. I doubt anything Fb has done counts. And certainly show-trials aren’t going to solve the problem. If the Republicans can’t get people of questionable capability like Lois Lerner, actual geniuses are going to run circles around any hearing.

            1. And it is arguably fraud: the Facebook section is called “Trending,” not “Things we think should be trending, and minus things that are trending but which we disagree with, so we don’t want them to appear here.”

              1. Thin argument. “Trending” can mean a lot of things.

        2. Also, are news corporations taxed differently that other corporations? Because if they get a tax break because of this and it turns out they’re deliberately filtering out certain content, it could run afoul of IRS rules.

          I genuinely don’t know if there is a different tax structure for news outlets. Does anybody here know?

          1. There isn’t. Not that a news corp might not structure itself differently, but they’ve only got the same options and privileges as any other profit or non-profit company.

            1. Thanks for the insight. I didn’t have time to look into it and was curious.

              1. Think about it. With freedom of the press, we can all be Citizen Journalists. And we ain’t getting no tax break.

          2. And since the IRS itself has been caught using its heavy hand to go after the political enemies of the left, what, pray tell, do you think the IRS would do but investigate and find no wrong doing? That’s what the DOJ did…

        3. Then *the paying customers* can go get some evidence and start their own litigation if they feel that not only have they been lied to but that the lie has *harmed* them.

          Because you kind of need both elements – an overt act that causes harm to someone – before you can seek remedy. If the people who are ‘harmed’ by this can’t be bothered to speak up on their own then there’s no reason for government, especially at the federal level, to get involved. This is just grandstanding.

          But you know who is not the paying customer? The people reading about what’s trending.

        4. And false advertising.

      2. Exactly. the fact that this is the “business” of the United States Congress is disturbing. Extremely disturbing. If only Bernie Sanders didn’t agree with Sen. John Thune, I could feel better about someone.

      3. They have to justify it to their users.

      4. Yeah, well, the U.S. taxpayer is subsidizing Facebook; so it’s owned by the govn’t now.

    2. In the Gizmodo story that was linked yesterday, it certainly seems that way. Nowhere did the ex-employees they talked to claim that Facederp management specifically ordered the curators to suppress conservative news stories (although it wasn’t clear where the decision to only link conservative news that were also being covered by “more respectable” – IOW left wing – news sources like CNN, NYT, etc. came from: that might be the one “gotcha” here). Mostly it sounded more like it was the result of the curators allowing their own individual biases to impact their decisions.

      The only thing that maybe came to close was the decision to artificially inject #BlackLivesMatter, but even that was probably more a result of Zuckerberg’s desire to keep up with Twitter twits than his progtard bias.

    3. I’m sure there’s enough plausible deniability so that management is not hurt by the complaints? maybe they can can simply blame a few low level employees who did this on their own initiative.

      not everyone can be the IRS.

  4. Can we finally talk about nationalizing social media?

    1. I can’t think of a better way to solve this problem for good.

      1. Having congressional hearings?

    2. Only if it shows up as a trending story.

      1. [golf clap]

    3. Access to unbiased social media is a human right.

    4. Ugh, don’t give the fuckers any ideas:

      “We need a national trending news service to ensure that everyone’s right to ‘unbiased’ government approved news is met!” – President Hilltrump, sometime in the next 4 years

      1. I thought NPR already exists.

        1. Yeah, but too few people listen to NPR. Hmm, what to do, what to do…

          I got it! An individual NPR mandate! *pats self on back for being so brilliant*

          1. Make it a two-way telescreen and you’ve got something there.

            1. Don’t make Orwell more right than he already was.

        1. Good god how fucking stupid.

          “Third-world people are too dumb to realize that Facebook isn’t the whole internet herpity derpity doo”

          1. The article that GILMORE posted below has essentially the same arguments, from a different author, and Reason did a write up of these arguments a few years ago; their article is from 2012. The only comfort I can see is that they’ve been making these arguments for a few years, and they really haven’t caught on.

            1. Five paragraphs in, he lists all the ways Facebook is fiendishly buying up IP, working with engineers and publishers to create the most robust new features and best user experience, and providing basic services to people the world over….and these are given as reasons to put a stop to it. “Why, if we don’t start legislatin’ now, there’s gonna be all kinds of success to deal with tomorrow!”

        2. Mmmmm, that’s good DERP!

    5. Yes, let’s do that. Probably the fastest way to make people lose interest in Facebook. I’m not seeing the downside.

    6. Can you imagine if the government ran Facebook? It would take like 30 seconds for a web page to load. Kinda like a reason.com web page.

      1. And HTTPS would be encrypted using ROT13.

      2. Lots of flashing text and Under Construction gifs.

    7. Although normally an opponent to nationalization of anything, I support this idea. Let Facederp get run into the ground by the government and have its idiot users abandon it in droves. The world would be a better place.

    8. Did you know that the top 1% own 99% of the the html? That isn’t fair. That isn’t American.

  5. Oh for fuck’s sake.

    And how long before the “neoreactionary” pieces of shit show up to spout some thinly veiled Jew-baiting? FACEBERG

    1. Fraudbook, is just dumb enough to stick. But if you ask me it’s not as catchy as Block Yomama.

      1. Limbaugh calls it “FakeBook” every 30 seconds. Its more annoying than all his other verbal tics.

        1. Especially since the term “fake book” is a pre-existing term for some type of sheet music thingy.

          1. I did not know that, but yeah it makes it even more annoying.

        2. that’s pretty retarded.

    2. I’ll take you up! Now, when is a cosmotarian loser going to virtue signal and? oh, wait?.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..50178.html

      1. You never disappoint, Slappy.

        Question: is your idiotic new handle an acronymization of neoreactionary?

      2. It wouldn’t be a normal day in modern America if an Obamafag didn’t call someone a racist.

        1. And it’s not a normal day during the Trumpocalypse if a bitter angry man-child didn’t whine about being accused of racism while race-baiting.

      3. Author, ‘Free Trade Doesn’t Work,’

        Oh, lord…

        *dives in anyway*

        1. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  6. Threatening private companies on how they use their own fucking property is something we all do together.

    1. “It’s not coercion, it’s democracy!”

    2. Well private companies can’t commit fraud.

      1. Sure they can. Deliberately saying the ingredients of some product are something other than what they are is fraud.

      2. :::squints:::

        Nope. Not seeing anything fraudulent.

  7. Doesn’t it kind of help the conservative brand to have liberalism overrepresented in retarded (I.e. all of them) FB political posts?

    1. I haven’t seen an Occupy Democrats image posted that wasn’t sincerely believed by the poster and many others.
      The stupid is infectious.

      1. In the minds of far too many, ubiquity equals truth.

  8. Now that Top Men have established a thin excuse for “the greater good”, watching how this turns out to fuck us all will be awesome.

    1. “Every news story colored by team blue statism shall herewith and henceforward be accompanied by a news story colored by team red statism.”

      1. Fairness Doctrine FTW!

  9. OK, Reason, you got me this time – here’s a conservative being morally equivalent to a prog.

    1. Reason is just the messenger, Eddie.

      1. Like Facebook’s news feed? Just random?

  10. Maybe when Clinton gets Citizens United overturned, all the liberal stories on FB will be shut down. 😀

  11. If the Republicans can go after Facebook, the Democrats can go after Drudge. This is a fool’s errand. The only issue with this is false advertising. If they pretended the feeds were content neutral and they were not, then that is defrauding their customers. But if that is true, the tort lawyers can take care of that. Congress should stay out of it.

    1. As is true with Google, it’s true with Facebook. If you’re paying them large amounts of money, you’re a customer. If you’re using their product, you’re the product. Now whether their advertisers have a case here… meh, I doubt it. But they could always try.

      1. If they do, that is what we have courts for. Congress has no business in it. That of course won’t stop those jackasses from getting in the middle of it.

      2. ^this. The advertisers are the customers. The users are the product.

        Calling a user of Facebook a customer is like calling a cow a customer of the slaughter house.

    2. They seem to be going for the fraud angle. But to me, it’s just slimy and insidious to be claiming neutrality and using the New York Times and the BBC as their baseline for “neutral”. Possibly just tone-deafness.

      1. The real angle is anti-trust. Facebook crushed my space and has a monopoly over this form of social media. The only reason anyone cares about this is because Facebook is a monopoly. If the tech oligarchs didn’t own the Obama administration, DOJ would have been all over Facebook and Google years ago.

        1. This has been explained before, but there’s no service Facebook offers that other social media platforms don’t. Facebook doesn’t represent a monopoly in any sense of the word. There’s no limit on sites where you can construct a friend/social network and share idiotic thoughts and cat pictures.

          1. The fact that you can construct such sites doesn’t mean Facebook isn’t a monopoly. The nature of the market is such that those sites will never be able to compete with facebook. Again, this only matters because they have no real competitors.

            1. You actually have to substantiate the claims that competitors “will never be able to compete with Facebook” and that there are “no real competitors.” Because there are a number of successful social media platforms that do part of or all of what Facebook does.

              The trending news on Facebook is a feature copied from Twitter which they don’t even do as well.

            2. The fact that you can construct such sites doesn’t mean Facebook isn’t a monopoly.

              This is true.

              The nature of the market is such that those sites will never be able to compete with facebook.

              The sums Facebook was willing to pay for WhatsApp and Instagram suggest that Facebook execs believe otherwise.

              Again, this only matters because they have no real competitors.

              Except for Snapchat, right? And, as Brochettaward points out, the trending news feature was created to ape Twitter.

              Not to mention foreign competitors, e.g., WeChat and LINE.

            3. It’s not a monopoly at all, John. Stop saying dumb shit.

            4. Organic monopolies are legal.

              What isnt legal is using one monopoly to leverage construction of another.

          2. there’s no service Facebook offers that other social media platforms don’t.

            Untrue. No other service has so many people I’d like to stay in touch with.

        2. I’d be even more pissed if they used anti-trust policies to go after them. What possible justification is there for even caring whether or not there’s a fucking social media monopoly? It’s time wasting entertainment.

          1. You may not like anti trust law, but it is still the law. And it ought to be enforced where appropriate.

            1. Facebook isn’t close to being a monopoly so this would be a total abuse of anti-trust laws. You’d have to really stretch the definition of monopoly.

            2. Goddamn john, you are everyone’s Republican dad on every issue, aren’t you?

              “Right and wrong doesn’t matter. It’s the law. OBEY!! ENFORCE!!!”

            3. Applicable just as well to gay wedding cake laws, no doubt.

            4. It’s not a monopoly. You’re a fucking idiot.

          2. Also, Facebook isn’t a Monopoly. There are tons of social networks out there and social networks tend to rise and fall very quickly. Facebooks active user numbers are already declining.

            1. I am sure they are. Monopolies never last. But that is an indictment of anti-trust law in general.

            2. All of that was true of Standard Oil and AT&T when they were hauled up on accusations of witchcraft “anti-competitive practices” but it didn’t help them.

              1. AT&T at least offers services where there is direct competition. The best you can claim with Facebook is users spend a disproportionate amount of time on it compared to other platforms. But you can freely use Facebook and other social media sites simultaneously. Many already do so. I’m probably not going to have two phones with two different contracts.

                1. Facebook’s percentage of the US social media market is like 50%. How in the world is 50% of the market a monopoly?

                  1. Not to mention that 50% is a very tautological and squishy number.

                  2. Anytime you own enough of the market to materially affect prices you may run afoul of anti-trust. Standard Oil had many local monopolies on transporting and processing oil products, they were not the only provider of such, just so big that they could set prices and make or break markets*.

                    *According to the prevailing theories of the time. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence that Standard ever lost money to drive competition out of business.

                2. AT&T at least offers services where there is direct competition.

                  Not when it got broken up.

        3. The only reason anyone cares about this is because Facebook is a monopoly.

          Except it’s the sharing economy so… not exactly.

          There are dozens of ways to aggregate news from the billions of sources across the web, all for free, most that let you filter using any algo you wish.

    3. Meh, these are the assholes that would love to change our status to ‘riding the box car trains to utopia’. Fuck em, if they feel a little heat. It still beats getting put up on the wall.

  12. Never, ever underestimate the capacity of Team Red to respond to any situation in the manner that is most asinine.

  13. Are you single tonight? A lot of beautiful girls waiting for you to http://goo.gl/pI9ucn
    The best adult dating site!

    1. Are they trending on Facebook?

  14. Any chance this might lead to the downfall of entertainment “news”?

    1. Technically I can’t predict the future, but if I absolutely had to guess I’d say, “heck no, what are you talking about?”

  15. I would have thought that as a private company, if they want to turn their “trending news” section into another leftist echo chamber, that’s their problem. Granted, it’s stupid, and it’s also reason 1,783,764 that I’m glad I still don’t have a facederp page, but still.

    That said, they definitely should have been more honest about the fact that there were human “curators” behind the curtain controlling what did/ didn’t appear. That’s pretty sleazy. But no more so than the rest of the media. They all pretend to be unbiased when they’re clearly not. I don’t think this rises to the level of demanding a Senate committee investigation, unless they’re also going to haul in the producers/ editors from MSNBC, CNN, the NY Times, LA Times, Fox News, etc.

  16. Oh, and now the #1 trending story on Derpbook:

    Senator John Thune (R-SD) fucks sheep behind Senate Office Building every night, sources say. /sarc

    1. And that routine is still funnier than his fellow senator and retired comedian Al Franken’s standup ever was.

  17. So I take it they got tired of investigating steroid use in baseball?

    Good thing we can count on these wise solons to apply their enlightened wisdom to pop culture while the executive branch wages undeclared wars everywhere.

    Whatever would we do without these TOP MEN?

  18. *points finger*

    “Let me start by telling you this: I have never suppressed any kind of conservative news, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”

    1. ‘And now, on the advice of my lawyers, I invoke my rights under the Fifth Amendment and I will not be answering any of your questions. Good day, sirs.

  19. Oh, Goddammit. Congress needs to butt the fuck out of this. Assuming Facebook’s “Trending” section’s political bias is a problem, it should be left to users to resolve.

  20. Jesus H. Christ Republicans, get over yourself. Can any politician ever learn “you today, me tomorrow”?

    1. You funny, Paul.

    2. Can any politician ever learn “you today, me tomorrow”?

      No, no they can’t. They’ll all be shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU, when the Democraps go after Drudge Report and Breitbart whenever they take back Congress.

      These jackasses are incapable of ever learning anything.

    3. as if this guy is inventing this novel new idea?

  21. Feds pay researcher to have bee sting his penis
    http://www.washingtontimes.com…..his-penis/

    So many directions the commentariat can go with this one.

    1. Shakespeare sort of had a quote about this in King Lear:

      “How sharper than a bee’s penile sting it is to have a thankless research grant panel!”

    2. Perhaps the most outrageous item Mr. Flake identified was a study that concluded Democratic women in Congress were less feminine than Republican women. That bit of research, which even went so far as to identify the lawmakers thought to score low on the femininity test, was part of a $50,000 National Science Foundation grant to the University of California-Los Angeles.

      Debbie Wasserman Pebbleteeth blew the downward curve.

      1. Debbie Wasserman Pebbleteeth blew…

        *vomits uncontrollably* GOD DAMMIT, SF!

        1. The Democratic Party chose her to be the face of their national committee.

        2. It’d be like sticking your dick in a rock tumbler.

          1. It’d be like sticking your dick in a rock tumbler.

            It’d hurt but your dick would look awesome afterwards?

      2. Phrasing!

    3. shit, I wish I’d gotten paid when I was 5 and a bee stung me in the scrotum

  22. I can picture some septuagenarian senatorial dotard right now:

    “So you are claiming this Facebook publication is only available on this so-called Internet, right? That is something people normally see on their computers, correct Mr. Zuckerberger? Are you therefore claiming, sir, that my local newsagent can’t set aside the latest issue of Facebook for me to pickup on my way home? I remind you, sonny, that you are under oath here.”

    1. Thanks for using “dotard.” That’s a good word we should revive. Prepare for accusations of ageism and ableism, though.

      1. Do? A Tard? A Female Tard?

        1. Re (pronounced with a long e), a drop of golden derp.

  23. Why does anyone take this shit seriously? It’s grandstanding for a few slaps on the back.

    1. The best I can say about that is probably. But it’s still a waste of resources for those hauled in front of Congress to defend themselves. It’s still bad publicity and harms those involved.

      I don’t consider any talk on this subject a joke given the pressure we already see governments exert on service providers. Or that a lot of people would see the first amendment neutered. Or that it’s probably only a matter of time until the FCC claims the right to censor online content the way it does the airwaves.

      1. So, you’re saying government abusing its power to faux punish its enemies and give its constituents a false sense of victory in a shadow puppet play is bad?

        Where you been the last 100 years? Same as it ever was for the right.

        1. That, and I actually think there’s a real chance it does escalate and lead to worse stupidity.

  24. In the letter to Zuckerberg, Thune requested this information by “no later than May 24,” and also asked for the “employees responsible for Trending Topics” to appear in Washington to brief the Committee.

    If I were Zuckerberg, I’d tell the Senator to go fuck himself.

    1. “Dear Senator Thorn:

      Re: your letter concerning the trending news feed

      Fuck off, slaver.

      Sincerely,

      M. Zuckerberg”

      1. Zuckerberg doesn’t want to tell the slavers to fuck off, he wants to have influence over the slavers, like any good crony capitalist.

  25. While congress has no business investigating Facebook’s political leaning or news aggregation methodology, I can certainly understand why a conservative congress would want to investigate a progressive “news source” that portrays itself as neutral.

    What I’d personally like to have happen is for news consuming citizens to understand that nothing promoted as “News” is neutral, that every outlet has its political leanings and priorities. This would then become a non-issue.

    1. I totally understand why. But a supposed “small government” politician should resist the urge to cave to his feelings on the matter.

      Totally agree with your second point. What news curators consider “important” will depend on their political and cultural biases. That Facebook — a company based in the Bay Area staffed disproportionately by younger employees — will have a progressive leaning shouldn’t be all that earth-shattering.

  26. If there’s one thing I know I got right in my life it’s not being on Facebook.

    1. I wasn’t born to a rock farmer in Himalayan Asia.

  27. Facebook is going to cave spectacularly as usual. Why? Because the CIA shows them pictures that “ISIS” drew of Marky in flames and say, “Do what we say or this is gonna happen.” He also bowed to Merkel on censoring posts critical of the muslim influx and thinks “Facebook needs to crack down more on “hate speech” against migrants.” It’s funny how he’s getting hit from both the right and left. It’s actually a huge compliment.

  28. Fuck. Off. Senator. Thune.

    Is there really anything else that can be said about this?

    1. Not really.

      He should far more worried about whether his wife is spending too much time on Facebook. If she is, she’s probably trying to hook up with some dude she dated back in high school.

      1. You know, I’ve seen pics (on Facebook!) of some or the girls I went to high school with. I’m guessing that, or I had married any of them, I’d be looking to trade ’em in for a newer model by now.
        Hookups with old high school friends probably works until you’re about 40.

  29. Worth repeating: “Mark Zuckerberg is Fidel Castro in flip-flops.”

    1. So he believes in the process?

  30. OT:

    Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate
    “Because of an editing error, an article on Monday about a theological battle being fought by Muslim imams and scholars in the West against the Islamic State misstated the Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, one of [sic] Muslim leaders speaking out. It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.”?New York Times, May 10

    1. Now i want to know who this “Pimpin4Paradise786” *really* is

      1. Probably the account the NYT writer uses instead of working.

    1. I’m not seeing a date on this article. They’re not still going on about this are they? If so, “Me today” just happened.

      1. If you mouse over the url, it suggests the article was posted 2010-05-15, so roughly six years ago.

      2. 2010 is when the comments start.

    2. Ah, date at the bottom. May, 2010. So still pretty old. But useful to bring it up again and again.

      1. My point was to note that the Highbrow-Progosphere was proposing a government takeover of Social Media many years ago.

        1. Yeah I read the articles. I remember one journalist who spent his life on Twitter and Facebook, concluded that Twitter and Facebook were the internet, and therefore should be regulated as utilities. It’s an idea so dumb, only and intellectual could think of it.

        2. *correction for clarity –

          that article isn’t proposing a govt takeover of Facebook (or other social media) so much as suggesting that one is inevitable because the infrastructure of social-media is becoming too-valuable to so many

          it is both a little prescient of the current problem (she even mentions the news-feed issue), as well as a little stupid in its assumption that the only way the future will evolve is for ‘something to replace facebook’ rather than for other alternative solutions/behaviors to emerge.

    3. AIIIEEEE what the hell is wrong with people?! It’s a fucking website – that is all!

      Now… HyR is a utility.

      1. Since you seem to be a glutton for derp today Rhywun, here is something a little different: A call to nationalize Amazon and Google instead.

        And as a touch of sanity, an article pointing out why nationalizing facebook is beyond stupid.

        1. A call to nationalize Amazon and Google

          You know what? I’m gonna go do some fucking work. YOU HAPPY NOW?!

        2. No. I am not clicking on Salon. No way.

    4. I thought the reason for regulated utilities was that we only want one set of phone poles. Or to be less glib, because it seems to make practical sense to have one company providing electric service and land line telephone connections. So those companies are granted a legal monopoly in exchange for being heavily regulated and price controlled. (I’m not saying I agree with this reasoning).
      None of those things applies to something like facebook. There is no practical reason why there can’t be 1000 internet platforms like facebook like there are reasons not to let whoever wants to sell electricity start stringing wires up everywhere.

      1. But what if my besties are on different social media networks? What will I do then?!

  31. Another national controversy where Republicans can prove they don’t actually care about small government.

  32. Freedom of Association and Moral Conscience.

    But only for socons.

  33. I believe in freedom of speech, but…

  34. My biggest fear is that all of this may have a chilling effect on keg stand videos.

  35. Congress has absolutely no authority to scrutinize, dictate, or influence the manner in which private enterprises manage their own possessions.

    1. Yup. And as is pointed out above, if they are somehow committing fraud, that’s a matter to be taken to court. Not something for Congress to get involved with.

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  39. Sen. Thune says if Facebook’s claim of using a “neutral, objective algorithm” based on users’ organic sharing of news stories to maintain “a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum” is false, this would constitute “mislead[ing] the public,” which he says lies within the Committee’s oversight authority.

    Um, wow. The irony of this argument coming from somebody who advocates measures that “shrink” the government.

  40. Until yesterday, I barely noticed the “Trending” box and I certainly never absorbed a single piece of information from it.

  41. Mark Zuckerberg can do what he wishes with his private company and …. “We the People” can point Zuckerberg out by stating that Zuckerberg and his his ilk would make great zealot filled despotic and tyrannical Big Brother dictators by the way Zuckerberg and company runs Facebook as an example and symbol of the book, ‘Animal Farm.’

    1. But as I said above, it is arguably fraud: the Facebook section is called “Trending,” not “Things we think should be trending, and minus things that are trending but which we disagree with, so we don’t want them to appear here.” If the section was called “Facebook recommends” or something, it would be less of an issue.

      1. Well, they’ll give you a refund for what you’ve paid in, ok?

  42. Facebook is indeed a private company and has every right to slant its newsfeed however its owners wish. But if it is claiming to its subscribers that its newsfeed is truly “neutral” but the reality is otherwise, that is fraud. And fraud is a crime even libertarians recognize.

    1. By what objective standard does one prove “neutrality” or “objectivity” about news, or lack thereof?

  43. Actually, one could justify this as a legal case of fraud. If Facebook advertises itself as objective, and then provides a grossly biased listing, then they have taken money from customers (or from advertisers who pay on the basis of how many customers they have) under false pretenses.

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  45. I am not offended. COMMERCE CLAUSE.

    In most cases, I wish the gubment would focus more on shining light and informing the public rather than prosecuting. So I guess this is consistent with that. Sort of.

  46. The advertisers are the customers. The users are the product.

    Calling a user of Facebook a customer is like calling a cow a customer of the slaughter house.

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