US Senate committee questions Facebook over news selection

May 11, 2016 at 3:30 pm

A US Senate committee launched an inquiry on Tuesday into how social media website Facebook selects its news stories after a report that company employees blocked news about conservative issues from its “trending” list.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation asked Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg in a letter to answer questions about the company’s news curation practices and its trending topics section.

The investigation comes after Gizmodo reported on Monday that a former Facebook employee claimed workers “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers,” while “artificially” adding other stories to the trending list.

US Senator John Thune, the chairman of the committee, told reporters Tuesday his primary concern was that Facebook may be engaging in deceptive behaviour if employees meddled with what trending news was displayed.

“If you have a stated policy, which your followers or your audience knows to be the case, that you use an objective algorithm for trending topics — you better follow that policy,” Thune said. “It’s a matter of transparency and honesty and there shouldn’t be any attempt to mislead the American public.”

The letter to Facebook includes requests for information on the organizational structure for the “Trending Topics feature.”

Adam Jentleson, deputy chief of staff to Democratic Senator Harry Reid, balked at the request in a statement provided to Reuters.

“The Republican Senate refuses to hold hearings on [Supreme Court nominee] Judge [Merrick] Garland, refuses to fund the president’s request for Zika aid and takes the most days off of any Senate since 1956, but thinks Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest,” Jentleson said.

A Facebook spokesman said it had received Thune’s request for more information about how “Trending Topics” works.

“As we investigate, we will also keep reviewing our operational practices around Trending Topics — and if we find they are inadequate, we will take immediate steps to fix them,” the spokesperson said.

Tom Stocky, the vice president of search at Facebook, responded to the allegations Monday night in a lengthy post published to the social media site saying there are “strict guidelines” for trending topic reviewers who “are required to accept topics that reflect real world events.”

He added that those guidelines are under “constant review” and that his team would “continue to look for improvements.”

Katie Drummond, the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo, called her publication’s story “accurate” in a statement released to Reuters Tuesday.

Gizmodo’s report alarmed several social media users, with some conservatives in particular criticizing Facebook for alleged bias.

“‘If a Conservative Speaks – and Facebook Censors Him – Does He Make a Sound?'” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, with a link to a National Review story that detailed the allegations against Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent News

Pakistan celebrates 71 years o
ISLAMABAD: The nation celebrated 71st Independence Day today (Tuesday) with traditional fervour and enthusiasm. All major public and private buildings, roads and avenues were decorated with illumin...
August 14, 2018 Read More
President, caretaker PM felici
ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain and caretaker Prime Minister Justice (retd) Nasir-ul-Mulk extended heartiest felicitations to all Pakistanis on the occasion of Independence Day. President Mamn...
August 14, 2018 Read More
Imran Khan felicitates Nation
Islamabad : Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan on Tuesday felicitated the nation on Independence Day as he vowed to realise Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal’s visio
August 14, 2018 Read More
shehbaz demands probe into rig
LAHORE (APP) - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday stressed the need for forging unity among the ranks of nation by setting aside differences in the larger interest o...
August 14, 2018 Read More
Sindh Governor-designate Imran
KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and Sindh governor-designate, Imran Ismail on Tuesday claimed that he was denied entry to Mazar-e-Quaid, where he had to offer Fateha. The PTI leader ...
August 14, 2018 Read More
Nawaz, Maryam arrested at Laho
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, were arrested Friday night upon their arrival in Lahore, a week after being sentenced to prison in the Avenfield Pr...
July 14, 2018 Read More
ICT development vital for coun
ISLAMABAD, Jul 13 (APP):Prime Minister Justice (Retd) Nasir-ul-Mulk Fridays while inaugurating the Pak-China Optical Fiber Cable project said that the development of information and communication tech...
July 14, 2018 Read More
128 dead 150 injured in Mastun
At least 128 people, including politician Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, were killed and more than 200 injured in a deadly suicide blast in Balochistan's Mastung district on Friday afternoon, Balochistan Ho...
July 14, 2018 Read More