May 11, 2016 3:35 PM GMT
A Gizmodo report caused quite a stir this week with claims from former Facebook contract employees that the social-media behemoth suppresses conservative stories in its Trending Topics feed. Facebook has denied the allegations and noted there’s no evidence to substantiate the claims.
But Republicans are nevertheless throwing a fit. The Republican National Committee, among many others in the party, believe Facebook is “censoring” the right. “It is beyond disturbing to learn that this power is being used to silence view points and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda,” the RNC said in a statement yesterday, operating from the assumption that the unproven charges are true.
But one key Republican senator is doing more than just complain. NBC News reported yesterday that Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) “wants to haul Facebook employees before Congress.”
Senate Democrats were quick to point out that the Republican majority can’t be bothered to hold a hearing on a pending Supreme Court vacancy; GOP senators still haven’t dealt with the looming Zika threat; and the chamber takes an alarming number of days off; but Republicans nevertheless seem to believe “Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest.”
That’s not a bad line, but given the circumstances, the Senate GOP’s bizarre sense of priorities is the least of the troubles here.
Right off the bat, it’s difficult to understand how Congress has any oversight responsibilities towards a private social-media company. I haven’t the foggiest idea if Facebook puts its thumb on the scales to help the left with Trending Topics – the evidence is thin, at best, based on the word of anonymous contractors – but let’s say for the sake of conversation that the allegations are 100% accurate. Then what? How, exactly, would federal lawmakers justify intervening in Facebook’s ideological practices?
Indeed, since when does the Senate care about media companies that may or may not have political preferences? ...