James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Thune's bullying of Facebook far worse than anything Facebook did

Imagine that Democrats ran Congress and investigated the Fox News "fair and balanced" claim. They'd say they're protecting you from false advertising.  

But nobody would believe it. We'd grasp the truth instantly: the Democrats are bullying and harassing a news outlet just because it has a right-wing slant. 

Supporters of the First Amendment, whether left, right, or libertarian, would condemn such an attack on free speech. Even if they hate Fox. 

Fortunately, that's all hypothetical. 

This, however, isn't: Senate Republicans are questioning Facebook for how it provides news. Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune said, "It's a matter of transparency and honesty and there shouldn’t be any attempt to mislead the American public." 

How did Facebook "mislead" the public?  

According to Gizmodo, Facebook uses algorithms to determine content for its "trending news" section. Humans oversaw the process to avoid duplication, promote breaking news, and ensure the news sources are mainstream 

So there was bias in preferring non-ideological news sites to ideological ones.  And the human overseers  had their own conscious and unconscious biases.

That's the scandal: Facebook might be biased because it's run by humans. As if that's unusual. 

But Conservatives who like to feel persecuted for their beliefs are predictably feeling persecuted. Thune's investigation is his way of throwing them red meat in an election year. 

But worse than that, Thune wants to bully, harass, and possibly punish a private business for the way it provides news to its users. Apparently, if there isn't "equal time" for right-wing coverage, they're not doing it right. 

Perhaps Facebook isn't as unbiased as advertised, just as  Fox may not be fair and balanced. 

But are their boasts really deceptive? Who's being deceived? 

And who's the victim? 

That's the question we must ask before we demand the government to investigate anything, especially the practices of a free press.  

Reading something you don't like doesn't make you a victim. Neither are you a victim if a particular site fails to provide you news that you can find elsewhere. 

I'm glad for Gizmodo's story on Facebook's alleged biases. More information is always helpful to the consumer. You are free to view it as so important that you want to quit using Facebook. Or you might think it's no big deal. 

What's important is that YOU decide. And we should all stand against Thune and all who believe Congress should investigate journalistic outlets who don't present the "right" kind of news the "right" way.  

If we tolerate this inquisition, no news outlet is safe from Congressional bullying. No journalist is safe. 
And you're not safe.

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