Earlier this month U.S. Senator John Thune sent a letter to Facebook demanding the company answer questions about the procedures behind its news aggregation. What is a U.S. Senator doing demanding information, which he considers “just a matter of transparency and honesty,” from a private-sector company?
This all goes back to an anonymous source in an article from Gizmodo on May 9 who claimed conservative news was suppressed on Facebook’s trending news items list. Facebook sends huge numbers of readers to news outlets and blogs. Last year, it was reported that Facebook had surpassed Google as the #1 source of referral traffic for websites tracked by analytics firm Parse.ly and accounted for close to 40 percent of referral traffic. With much smaller traffic numbers than any of the big outlets CEO Mark Zuckerberg invited to meet with him recently, Bombs and Dollars still knows the import of Facebook, as we get a large share of our traffic from users sharing our articles on Facebook. Conservatives have long believed the mainstream media is biased in favor of liberalism, so it isn’t surprising that many would be outraged about the report.
But before even getting to the veracity of the allegations, consider for a moment if it was true that Facebook slanted its news aggregation in favor of liberal outlets, what would the proper response be? What should the government do about it? What could the government do about it? Facebook is a corporation operating in the free-market system. Why should the government or anyone else have control over how it decides to publish content? If the media in general is biased—and certain outlets transparently are, like MSNBC and Fox News, and indeed all the conservative outlets invited to meet with Zuckerberg—then should they be investigated for slanting their news?