In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune has voiced concerns that Facebook’s “Trending Topics” section is biased against conservative viewpoints. Thune wants Zuckerberg to explain its organizational structure and processes for “Trending Topics” and to describe what it is doing to investigate the bias allegations.
Facebook responded that it was investigating and looked forward to addressing the senator’s concerns. That is an unfortunate response.
I don’t read “Trending Topics” and I have no idea whether it is infused with liberal bias. If it is, then conservative groups have every right to expose and criticize that bias. And Facebook would have every right to respond to that criticism. Or not to respond: Facebook, after all, has a right to express a point of view, whatever its ideological flavor. But none of this is a legitimate concern of the federal government. Biased, neutral or whatever, Facebook’s publications are protected by the First Amendment. Thune’s presumption of a right to call Facebook to account shows an appalling indifference to our Constitution. Zuckerberg should just have said (respectfully, of course): “You can’t mean this, Senator. Surely you understand that this is none of your business.”