Thune to Facebook:Do You Suppress Conservative Views?

The Internet Law Resource Center™ is the complete information solution for practitioners in cyberlaw. Follow the latest developments on ICANN’s gTLD program, keyword advertising, online privacy,...

By Joseph Wright

May 10 — A Senate committee leader May 10 asked Facebook Inc. whether it regularly suppressed conservative political positions from its Trending Topics section.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) sent a letter asking Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg several questions about the company's news curation. The reports, Thune said, call into question Facebook's representations about how the company provides news to users.

Facebook has built its 1.6 billion-user site in part on the proposition that it is neutral in regards to political postings. Any evidence that this isn't true might pose a significant challenge to the Internet giant's continued growth and profitability.

“If true, these allegations compromise Facebook's ‘open culture' and mission ‘to make the world more open and connected.' ” Thune said.

Thune's letter came a day after news reports quoting former Facebook employees as saying the platform's “news curators” excluded conservative views from its list of trending topics. The list purportedly includes the news stories being shared most often at the time.

Thune asked Zuckerberg to:

  •  describe how the Trending Topics feed is structured;
  •  state whether stories have been suppressed or other stories injected into the Trending Topics feed;
  •  identify steps the company is taking to respond to the allegations or to hold individuals responsible;
  •  provide and describe the company's guidelines for avoiding the suppression or injection of viewpoints in the Trending Topics feed; and
  •  provide records of stories suppressed or injected, if they are maintained, or attempt to reconstruct such records.

 

Thune requested an answer by May 24 and a briefing by responsible Facebook employees for committee staff.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Wright in Washington at jwright@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at daplin@bna.com

For More Information

Thune's letter is available at http://src.bna.com/eRm.