A U.S. Senate committee sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg on May 10 demanding answers after former Facebook employees claimed conservative stories were downplayed in the site’s “trending” section.
In the letter, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation asked Zuckerberg if his news curators practiced “politically motivated manipulation.”
Former Facebook employees who worked from mid-2014 to December 2015 told Gizmodo that the social media platform, headed by Mark Zuckerberg, routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the “trending” news section.
A journalist who worked for Facebook told Gizmodo that employees averted stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, politicians Mitt Romney and Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from showing up in the section, even though they were organically trending.
Various former Facebook “news curators” claim they were ordered to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending section, even though they weren’t popular enough to be included or weren’t trending at all.
Facebook Vice President for Search, Tom Stocky, hit back quickly on May 9 in a statement on Facebook.
Stocky, who is in charge of Trending Topics, said the accusations are not true.
“We take these reports extremely seriously, and have found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true,” he said.
The VP said Facebook has “rigorous guidelines” to “ensure consistency and neutrality.”
Senate Committee Letter
“Facebook must answer these serious allegations and hold those responsible to account if there has been political bias in the dissemination of trending news,” said U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) in a statement about sending the letter.
“Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open Internet,” he added.
Senate minority leader Harry Reid’s chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, mocked the Senate Republicans for proposing hearings over Facebook’s alleged suppression of conservative news.
“Glad we’re focusing on the important things while a SCOTUS seat is vacant and POTUS’ Zika aid request is unfunded,” said Jentleson on Twitter.
He then went on to list other priorities the senate was overlooking:
The Republican Senate:
-No Zika aid
-Most days off in 60 years
-No SCOTUS hearings
But cracking down on Facebook is an urgent priority
— Adam Jentleson (@AJentleson) May 10, 2016
In the letter, the Senate committee gave Zuckerberg until May 24 of this year to provide the requested information.