“It’s None Of The Government’s Business If Facebook Hates Conservatives”

No, Sen. Thune (R-S.D.), a U.S. lawmaker shouldn’t be firing off a letter to Facebook insisting that it account for the alleged political slant of its judgment in selecting content. As for supposed victims of the practice, writes Amy Alkon, “if your news comes from the tiny trending bits on the sidebar of Facebook, you’re about as informed politically as my desk lamp, and I ask that you not vote.”


  • Apparently Facebook publishes all the news that’s fit to print.

  • The real issue here is not that Facebook was exercising editorial judgment; the issue here is that they misrepresented their actions and thereby misled their readers. We all rely on supposedly unbiased algorithms all the time, such as when using an internet search engine or determining who won a lottery. When those activities are in fact rigged, people get mad.

    Can they show actual damages, though? Not so sure about that, though I could imagine it to be possible: e.g. misspent dollars on a poorly targeted ad campaign that based its ads on what was touted as an unbiased popularity algorithm but in fact was not.

    On the other issue, re the govt demanding that FB be “unbiased” in future coverage, no way. Wrong on its face, plus too slippery a slope.

    But there are two issues here, imho, and it’s important to treat them separately.

  • Walter, Facebook is a public accommodation. Hence the need for government involvement.

  • Is there no issue of false advertising?

    And remember the game show “scandals” of the 50s?

  • Odd, I saw no promise that Facebook was presenting “Trending Topics” with any guarantee that they were doings so in a “fair” fashion. While I assumed it was not a wholly arbitrary one, it was only because I assumed it to be almost completely automated – and even then, I assumed some degree of arbitrariness in either the sources they allowed, the topics they allowed, or some combination of both.

    I agree with you on damages, as I can’t conceive of any. Had their been unlabeled paid advertising in the trending topics I might be more upset, but the company paying for placement under those circumstances wouldn’t seem to be the one with damages.

    “Unbiased” is a word easy to define, and impossible to implement. At this point, those complaining are gaining some notoriety via the Striessand effect, and Facebook’s trending topics management is getting some insight into the effectiveness of their training and oversight. Seems fair to me – but I wouldn’t say “unbiased”. đŸ˜‰