The US Senate Commerce Committee has publicly opened up an inquiry into Facebook and it’s potential manipulation of political posts in the social media site’s Trending Topics. Senate chairman John Thune is leading the questioning, asking Facebook to clarify reports that the teams of people managing Trending Topics were actively suppressing certain stories. In this case, the Senate believes those suppressed stories had a conservative slant.
Thune claims that Facebook’s political manipulation was a strike against an open and fair internet, which is interesting coming from a guy that publicly decried the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules.
The Senate’s letter to Facebook over these practices simply asks Facebook to be more transparent about its editorial guidelines, how its news team is set up, and whether or not any manipulation has happened and if Facebook is investigating it. It’s not a full-fledged investigation or anything, which is important to note because the Senate doesn’t have any teeth to control Facebook whatsoever. If Mark Zuckerberg felt like it, he’s free to legally make all of Facebook’s news stories left-leaning and ban all conservative news sources, or vice versa.
On the other end of this, Facebook has publicly denied any kind of tampering with trending news stories on the site. Their VP of Search, Tom Stocky, said they’ve found no evidence of any of the allegations against the site, but he did point out that their news team tends to keep unverifiable sources out of the spotlight, and they disregard junk or duplicate stories.
Facebook is working through the issue and said they’ll publicly issue a statement soon.