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.”



  1. Jeremy Graham May 11, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    I think FB gives us a lot of control over what we read. When I look at the trending items, they look like the same garbage in the mass media, only worse. The bias is probably just a reflection of the mass media bias. “Trending” means for someone other than me.

    As for liberalism, even when practiced sincerely, doesn’t serve the needs of truly disenfranchised. Liberalism emerged as the right right of merchants and tradespeople as opposed to nobles. Hilary has no ideology. Bernie is somewhere between liberal and socialist imho.

  2. Jeffrey Herrmann May 12, 2016 at 4:18 am

    Facebook’s response was cowardly and short-sighted. It’s alleged bias is not something a Senator has any business demanding an explanation of.

    Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. has an employee manual that includes biblical references, and it announces on its website that it is committed to “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.” Recently an employee explained that no Hanukkah decorations were stocked “[b]ecause Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.” Do you imagine Sen. Thane would express concern over that bias and demand an explanation? Similar examples are legion.

    Thane is being a right-wing political bully.

  3. Mel Brender May 14, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    I await with baited breath Senator Thune’s investigation of Fox News for biased reporting.

    • Jeffrey Herrmann May 16, 2016 at 12:41 am

      Fat chance of that happening. Even Sen. Thane has probably heard that there is something called the First Amendment that might shield Fox News from a Congressional witch hunt. Of course, a Congressional witch hunt of Fox by this Congress would only happen in an alternative universe.

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