Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Does Facebook really have this kind of clout?

By Mouser the King Cat

 Facebook, the class reunion you can never escape from, apparently is more important in Washington than anyone thought. (Do not infer anything positive about CEO Mark Zuckerberg from that.) From the CNN Money website:
 A top Republican … wants Facebook to explain exactly how it chooses the news in its ‘trending’ topics section. The Commerce Committee, led by Republican John Thune of South Dakota, asked [Zuckerberg] to respond to anonymous allegations that former contractors suppressed news about conservatives and links to right-leaning websites. The controversy, first published by Gizmodo, is now trending on Facebook. In a letter … Thune demanded to know who is ultimately responsible for approving stories for the ‘trending’ box on the Facebook home page; what steps Facebook has taken to investigate the claims of bias; and how Facebook keeps records of its editorial decisions.
This is easily addressed. First point: Facebook would eliminate every conservative thought from its pages if it had the personnel or algorithms to do so and thought it would not kick up a company-destroying backlash. That is how liberals like Zuckerberg think. Second point: What business does the government have poking around in this stuff? Nobody pays a fee to join Facebook, except agreeing to have ads shoved in your face. It is a private conveyance; anybody who doesn’t like how it may be manipulated is free to leave.
Noted First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams agrees with me: “Facebook is free to reveal what information it chooses about its decision-making process and to defend its editorial process as it chooses. Members of Congress and others may take issue with those decisions. But the First Amendment leaves no room for Congress to investigate or otherwise insert itself into Facebook’s editorial decision-making.”
More from Thune, who really should spend more time looking out for South Dakota: “Social networks such as Facebook are an increasingly important source of news for many Americans and people around the world. Facebook has enormous influence on users’ perceptions of current events, including political perspectives.”
The unceasing diet of liberal pablum served up by the media (including outlets like “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central and Stephen Colbert’s disaster of a late-night show on CBS) no doubt influence the opinions of some. I contend that number is far smaller than people think. It likely is the same for Facebook and Twitter; my Twitter followers have exceeded 3,000, and all of them think for themselves.

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