Facebook to face senate investigation

The censorship by Facebook against conservative, Christian and Constitutional news outlets was long suspected, and recently former Facebook employees have come forward to make it known that is exactly what the company was doing. Now a GOP Senator has sent a letter to Facebook demanding an explanation of the allegations against them, just as one conservative commentator has filed a legal motion against the social media giant to obtain information about how they were censoring his website and others on Facebook.

First, Senator John Thune (R-SD), who serves as Chairman for the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has written a letter to Facebook and asked several questions.

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Chairman Thune’s Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Here are the questions the senator asked.

  1. Please describe Facebook’s organization structure for the Trending Topics feature, and the steps for determining included topics. Who is ultimately responsible for approving its content?
  2. Have Facebook news curators in fact manipulated the content of the Trending Topics section, either by targeting news stories related to conservative views for exclusion or by injecting non-trending content?
  3. What steps is Facebook taking to investigate claims of politically motivated manipulation of news stories in the Trending Topics section? If such claims are substantiated, what steps will Facebook take to hold the responsible individuals accountable?
  4. In a statement responding to the allegations, Facebook has claimed to have “rigorous guidelines in place for the review team” to prevent “the suppression of political perspectives” or the “prioritization of one viewpoint ver another or one news outlet over another.”
    1. When did Facebook first introduce these guidelines?
    2. Please provide a copy of these guidelines, as well as any changes or amendments since January 2014.
    3. Does Facebook provide training for its employees related to these guidelines? If so, describe what the training consists of, as well as its frequency.
    4. How does Facebook determine compliance with these guidelines? Does it conduct audits? If so, how often? What steps are taken when a violation occurs?
  5. Does Facebook maintain a record of curators decisions to inject a story into the Trending Topics section or target a story for removal? If such a record is not maintained, can such decisions be reconstructed or determined based on an analysis of the Trending Topics product?
    1. If so, how many stories have curators excluded that represented conservative viewpoints or topics of interest to conservatives? How many stories did curators inject that were not, in fact, trending?
    2. Please provide a list of all news stories removed from or injected into the Trending Topics section since January 2014.

Facebook acknowledged they had received the letter and that a violation of company guidelines can result in termination, the question I have is, what does the DC government have to do with this issue? It’s clear that the actions of Facebook with regards to censorship are not an issue for the Congress, unless the Congress is funding them, as some have suspected they have, which would be a violation of the First Amendment.

Senator Thune argued in 2009 against reinstating the Federal Communications Commission’s former policy called the Fairness Doctrine, which mandated that broadcasters include a broad variety of political perspectives.

At the same time that the letter is in the hands of Facebook, conservative commentator Steven Crowder has filed a petition for pre-suit discovery against Facebook. Crowder’s attorney, Bill S. Richmond, issued a press release on Monday stating, “In light of the recent allegations brought to our attention by Michael Nunez and Gizmodo.com, Steven Crowder is taking steps to determine what, if any, legal action is necessary to address the assertions that he has been targeted by Facebook for suppression due to his conservative political commentary.”

“It is fully understood that Facebook has every right to curate any content they so desire on their platform,” the statement read. “However, Facebook’s bullying methods of operation in tandem with both the long-standing evidence of misconduct and the allegations newly brought to light require further investigation given the direct financial ramifications on business clients acting in trust with Facebook.”

“As part of this investigation, a petition for pre-suit discovery has been filed in Dallas County, Texas seeking discovery from Facebook regarding the actions of its News Feed curators as well as its billing department,” wrote Richmond. “Mr. Crowder is confident that Facebook will promptly and transparently address the request for information.”

Courtesy of Freedom Outpost