Dear Republicans, Could We Get A Little Consistency?

Republicans were rightly horrified that various government agencies, including a number of state attorneys general, were harassing private entities like Exxon-Mobil and CEI over their speech about climate change.  They pointed out that even if formal charges were never brought, the intrusive and public investigatory process by powerful government actors had an inherently chilling effect on free speech.

Kudos to Republicans!  They are defending the free speech of private actors from government harassment.

Oh, wait, no they are not.

The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee demanded on Tuesday that Facebook explain how it handles news articles in its “trending” list, responding to a report that staff members hadintentionally suppressed articles from conservative sources.

In a letter, the chairman, Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, asked Facebook to describe the steps it was taking to investigate the claims and to provide any records about articles that its news curators had excluded or added. Mr. Thune also asked directly whether the curators had “in fact manipulated the content,” something Facebook denied in a statement on Monday.

“If there’s any level of subjectivity associated with it, or if, as reports have suggested that there might have been, an attempt to suppress conservative stories or keep them from trending and get other stories out there, I think it’s important for people to know that,” Mr. Thune told reporters on Tuesday. “That’s just a matter of transparency and honesty, and there shouldn’t be any attempt to mislead the American public.”

Ugh.  What does Thune want, a revival of odious equal time rules, but now applied to the Internet?  This is just stupid.


  1. None:

    Isn't the point that they claimed they did not filter and just showed what was statistically "trending" across the board, yet in reality were lying, and filtering content based on their political groupthink ?

  2. ano333:

    Is that an issue of national urgency that needs Senate investigation? I though the Republicans were going to focus on Benghazi this summer...

  3. ErikTheRed:

    Yup. Possibly some consumer fraud occurring, but I think a congressional inquiry is a bit overboard.

  4. poitsplace .:

    With politicians, I expect some more shady stuff. What I find far more disturbing is how willing and eager social justice and eco warriors are to stifle free speech in their forums. They will allow their own members to say terrible things that are blatant violations of their terms of use...and even suggest that those that oppose them should be killed through mob action. But anyone that opposes them regularly is censored and banned. And the funny thing is that they actually seem MORE Likely to ban you (might just be my personal experience) if you make courteous, well thought out responses that include evidence showing that it virtually impossible for their assumptions/policies to be correct or reasonable.

  5. marque2:

    You win the sensible answer award.

  6. mesaeconoguy:

    This falls under the “turnabout is fair play” category, but if they were going for equity, they should have had the Alaska AG subpoena Zuckerberg.

  7. marque2:

    Even like Huffpo, you say something well reasoned, no swears, no vitriol, just a few facts, and your post gets screamed at and then pulled. That doesn't often happen on libertarian or conservative sites, unless you go totally wacko nuts on the host. Mark Perry pulled a few posts after months of abuse, for instance.

  8. Corky Boyd:

    Facebook is not a government entity. It can print or not print any news it wants. It can be liberal or conservative. Like your blog, it is free take any stand it wants without congressional investigations or government interference. That said, I think the Facebook story has another, more nefarious, aspect.

    The story was broken by Gizmodo, a subsidiary of Gawker. Neither are noted for supporting conservative causes. It is likely this is a phony story with another purpose. And that is to provide a basis that government has a right to interfere with internet advocacy. Former FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has been warning for a year that the Democratic majority FCC wants to limit internet sites that have "excessive" influence over electoral politics. In particular Pai says Drudge is the top target. On the broadcast side, Rush Limbaugh. Both gave favorable treatment to Donald Trump.

    If you recall, the White House directed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to regulate the internet the day after the disastrous (for Democrats) 2014 Congressional elections. The Gizmodo story ran just 6 days after Trump's convincing win in Indiana that made him the presumptive Republican nominee. If Republicans attempt to make this a cause celebre, they are playing into Democrat hands. They will be quoted as supporting government intervention in internet content.

  9. James Verpoten:

    Simple - stop using Facebook

  10. HenryBowman419:

    Well, if the government was actually serious about this, Mr. Zukerberg would have already suffered a fatal accident. But he is free to do as he pleases. I suggest advising everyone you know to avoid Fakebook.

  11. John Moore:

    Congress is not prosecuting anyone - they are asking questions. So far, not foul.

  12. John Moore:

    The story is not phony. The left wing Guardian newspaper has gotten hold of internal Facebook documents, and more interviews, the show Facebook was lying when they said they editors did not push or censor items in the Trending feed.

  13. slocum:

    'Process as punishment' applies to congressional investigations as well. There might be no foul if they never demanded records or testimony from Facebook, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

  14. poitsplace .:

    I actually caught the mods from Reddit conspiring with some green group shill from Climate Nexus. They disappeared the post after they noticed. The mods swore they weren't trying to silence climate skeptics...then about a year after being banned 3 times (always well within acceptable guidelines)...the one of the bastards came out about it in some liberal rag, talking about how they'd been doing it more and more for years. Their favorite tactic was to shadow ban you, making it so your posts only show up to you.

    Hey, on the bright side...people do notice. Their "My way or the highway" attitude means the moment someone realizes one of the crazy lefty views doesn't hold up, they're driven out of their ranks...where they end up exposed to other viewpoints.

  15. ErikEssig:

    The Republican party is called the stupid party for a reason.

  16. stan:

    Exposing fraud is a good thing. Doesn't mean that legislation is to follow. Educating the American public is worthwhile.

    Warren's so eager to condemn the GOP that he posts this crap without thinking.

  17. stan:

    It would also help Warren a lot if he could learn some game theory.

  18. stan:

    When your opponent is constantly hitting below the belt, his corner is jabbing you in the leg with scissors and the ref is sucker punching you, you can make pious pronouncements about your adherence to the supposed rules or, if you want to win, you can fight back. One of the reasons that Trump is the nominee is the extremely strong desire of millions of Americans that someone, anyone show the stomach to fight back against the assaults of the Left.

    We're stuck with a morally defective, immature brat for a GOP nominee because he was the only one he seemed to understand the intensity of this desire to fight back.

    If the opponent is ignoring the published rules, you need to fight within whatever rules reflect reality.

    In the 1980s, basketball referees allowed defenders to mug people. That wasn't in accord with the way the rules were written, but that was reality. Any player who piously refused to make any contact with his opponent because of his commitment to upholding the written rules would have been considered a traitor by his teammates and coaches and rightly so.

  19. stan:

    As opposed to the party that is leading a crusade to force little girls to shower in locker rooms with teenage boys?

    Or the party that is demanding that all sex require a question and answer period and signed consent forms?

    Or the party that uses the Fed govt to sue over a voter ID? On the grounds that blacks are too stupid to get one and too stupid to know how to vote? And having asserted the supposed stupidity of blacks (via expert testimony in court), then make the mind-boggling argument that such stupidity proves that Republicans are racist?

    Or the party that claims women are denied access to birth control if their employer doesn't give it to them for free? And that this constitutes a "war on women?"

  20. stan:

    The definition of foul has changed over the last 7 years. See e.g. IRS demands for answers about books read and prayers said.

  21. ErikEssig:

    I'm a Republican

  22. CT_Yankee:

    Step one: provide a link (by snail mail) to the appropriate facebook policy.

    Step two: suggest that to move along any other questions that might arise, the Senator should take a basic adult education computer course, visit a library, or ask any kid on a school tour of our Capital.

  23. MJ:

    It does seem like there's a bit of a left-wing slant to the stories and headlines that appear in the trending list, but I almost never read them anyway so I can't confirm who the sources are. Who looks to Facebook for their news anyway? I don't think this is the hill that the Republicans want to plant their flag on and, as Warren notes, they should probably try to strive for more consistency. Facebook isn't public television or NPR, nor should they be.

  24. GoneWithTheWind:


  25. jdgalt:

    The left does very much want to regulate the Internet, that's why they're pushing for ICANN to come under control of the UN's ITU.

    After all, the equal-time rule worked very much to the advantage of the left as long as it lasted. (The people enforcing it allowed the two main, leftist parties to define the spectrum of views to which it applied.) Its fall made it possible for Rush Limbaugh to begin his career.

  26. jdgalt:

    As opposed to the evil party, the DemonRats? I agree with that.

  27. jdgalt:

    I wonder why the Guardian would shoot the left in the foot by revealing this information.

  28. jdgalt:

    Depends on the site. I've been banned from "The Other McCain" for disagreeing with them.

  29. marque2:

    Warren doesn't mind that, just when GOP gets too "uppidy" for his taste.

  30. marque2:

    Nate Silver's site will bann you for anything even slightly pointing out anything. The site is full of Natebots saying how accurate all his predictions are in this primary cycle - point out that Trump and Cruz were at the bottom of their list 6 months ago and they kept assuring neither would win - post removed, point out things like, the accuracy is from the he day of primary and just about anyone could take the last two polls and be as accurate, and throw in some "self derived" statistical mumbo jumbo as well - post removed, etc.

  31. Not Rick:

    Think of it as truth in advertising. I don't think anyone has a right to stop them from doing it - but they're lying to their 'consumer' about it. It's just an odd quirk of the times that the 'consumer' is the product and the 'product' is the consumer. Fits in well since we shifted to the universe know as InverseLandia.

  32. marque2:

    Even lefties have the desire to make money by selling things. The Facebook story is bringing eyeballs to the Guardian.

  33. marque2:

    The other McCain would count as a left wing site. Seriously though, it is more prevalent on left wing sites, than right wing or libertarian.

  34. Nehemiah:

    One point that seems to have been missed by the commenters below is the fact that Facebook sells advertising services. It is important to advertisers to know that the platform's practices are consistent with its stated policies. Facebook has said their trending feature is not biased in any way since it is driven purely by user activity. If they are not playing fair with topic trending, are they playing fair with ad placements?

    I could care less whether management bends left or right or just bends over. But they should follow their stated policy.