When it was revealed Facebook suppresses conservative content and promotes causes like Black Lives Matter for its news curation service, many were troubled by the implications of a giant corporation having the power to control what information millions of people see on a daily basis.
Particularly, when that information was selected to favor certain viewpoints. (RELATED: Former Facebook Insider: We Buried Conservative News)
In response to this outrage, Republican South Dakota Sen. [crscore]John Thune[/crscore] sent a letter to Facebook Tuesday on behalf of the Senate Committee on Commerce over its alleged censorship. In the letter, Thune asked to see Facebook’s specific guidelines for its news curators and what sources it instructed them to avoid. (RELATED: Legislator Wants To See Just How Facebook Curated Trending Content)
Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild has already responded to the controversy with a degree of contrition. The site included news of its curating in its top trending topics and proclaimed it will fire any employee who violated the guidelines. Whether Facebook is going to seriously change course on its conservative suppression remains to be determined. (RELATED: Facebook Responds To Allegations Of Conservative Censorship)
With pretty much every person in America being on Facebook and a large number of citizens receiving the majority of their news from the social media service, it’s not crazy for a senator to send a stern letter asking about policies that determine which information shapes the views of millions of Americans.
To many prominent conservatives, though, the letter was an outrage worse than Facebook’s censorship.
Twitchy compiled a number of incensed responses to Thune’s letters from various pundits and personalities on the Right. The response was overwhelmingly negative.
The Washington Examiner’s Phillip Klein tweeted: “This is a ridiculous move by Thune. However angry ppl may be at Facebook, it is NOT an issue for gov.”
National Review’s Charles Cooke stated: “The Senate’s commerce and science committee needs to stay the hell away from Facebook, which is a private company.”
Fox News commentator and Townhall writer Katie Pavlich declared: “No, it isn’t the Senate’s job to look into the Facebook ‘scandal.'”
The sentiment was shared by many other conservatives that no matter how wrong Facebook’s policies may be, they shouldn’t be subject to letters from federal lawmakers. Facebook is a private company, and its policies are no business of the government.
It’s understandable to not want the government interfering with the affairs of private enterprise. Businesses are saddled with enough problems than to worry about the federal government snooping in on their bathroom situations and how much they pay female employees.
But the Facebook situation is a bit different from the usual bureaucratic boondoggle. For one, Thune just sent a letter to the company asking about their policies. Considering that 58 percent of adult Americans are on Facebook and it is a highly prized information hub, a lawmaker filing an information inquiry on the service isn’t obscene at all.
It’s just a letter requesting an information — not a dictate imposing the government’s will upon the tech giant.
And America should know about these guidelines concerning Facebook’s news curating. The site has become the public forum of choice for the 21st century. It’s where millions socialize, learn about their communities and current affairs. Businesses, particularly news outlets, depend on the service in order to attract customers and distribute content.
There’s tremendous power invested into Facebook by both the amount of users it registers and how much those users depend on it for their daily lives. If a major abuse is occurring, such as with the news curation feature, the only hope for users is that the public outrage is enough of a catalyst for Facebook to change course.
But by dent of being a private corporation that happens to be very influential, it’s not required to change its policy. It can continue to favor liberal news outlets and promote left-wing causes without any consequences — besides heavily influencing the way 58 percent of the population thinks, of course.
So maybe one or more lawmakers should exert some pressure on Facebook to make sure the company isn’t hampering free speech and pushing ideological conformity. There may be some precedent for it in how antitrust laws have been used against Comcast recently and its alleged monopoly of local cable ad business. Doesn’t Facebook and its handpicked news curators hold a kind of monopoly over what news reaches its incredibly large audience?
More importantly, it’s certainly time corporate America felt pressure from legislators on free expression grounds.
In recent years, corporations have become the greatest threat to free expression in the United States.
Take the issue of religious freedom laws. Last year in Indiana, its Republican-controlled state legislature and Republican governor gutted its recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act because of economic threats from various corporations. Several other states scuttled their plans to pass similar legislation after losing heart in the face of possible corporate boycotts.
The reason why several major corporations didn’t want states passing these laws is because gay rights groups found the legislation discriminatory. In practice, all these laws do is give businesses a chance in court if they refuse to provide a service on religious grounds, such as an evangelical baker declining to make a cake for a gay wedding. It doesn’t give them the right to do so, just the possibility they might have their decision upheld in court if it meets a reasonable standard.
Regardless of the law’s actual stipulations, big business decided it was discrimination and used its power to force Indiana to geld the bill. (RELATED: The Biggest Threat To Free Expression Isn’t The Government)
Read more: https://dailycaller.com/2015/06/26/the-biggest-threat-to-the-first-amendment-isnt-the-government/
We’re seeing a similar situation play out in North Carolina right now with its bathroom bill which requires people to use public restrooms that correspond with their biological sex. Major companies like Pepsi, General Electric and Hewlett-Packard have threatened to boycott North Carolina unless it changes the law. Once again, the reason for this action is because special interest groups have found the law discriminatory, and so corporations have passed judgement on the matter.
Even when it comes to matters outside the purview of government policy, big business have made moves to stifle free expression. Last summer, internet retailers virtually made the Confederate flag disappear because it was deemed too offensive for private citizens to own in the wake of the Charleston AME Church massacre.
It’s easy to just tell people who are upset at these policies to stop using the services of companies like Facebook. But increasingly, a person is left with no option other than a product made by a corporation which seeks to impose a left-wing viewpoint on the public.
In the case of Facebook, there really is no rival social media platform with its vast array of utilities and services. Thousands of businesses are dependent on it, and it is, for better or for worse, one of the primary means for communications in our day and age.
Facebook is more than just a company offering a service, it’s the town square of our current era. Imagine if the town square of years past only offered Huffington Post and Mic.com for news and information.
It is odd that conservatives would cling so desperately to a principle that encourages private enterprise to discriminate against them. Collective conservative tweet storms against events like the Facebook brouhaha usually turn out to be ineffective. See #NeverTrump.
So there’s a need for another power to get involved in this scandal. And there’s no harm in a representative of the people sending a letter merely asking questions.