Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

This is the stupidest thing you'll see all week ... I hope

This is just big-league, industrial-strength, Trump-level stupid. It is one of the stupidest things I've seen recently, and as you know, that is truly saying something in these days of all-out Idiocracy.

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, under the leadership of Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, today announced that it is launching an investigation into allegations that news curators at Facebook "suppressed" news considered to be conservative in nature.

“Facebook must answer these serious allegations and hold those responsible to account if there has been political bias in the dissemination of trending news,” Thune said in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “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.”

Let's begin with the basics: Really?


An arm of the U.S. government is demanding an explanation and justification for the editorial decisions of a private news aggregator, going so far as to demand answers from its CEO? If so -- if that's the game -- then I can name a few other places that ought to be subject to hearings, investigations, etc.

Does Drudge tilt its front page? Gee, I don't know. Let's take a look:

Does Fox News tilt its coverage? Do they cover the news in such a way as to "suppress" liberal viewpoints? Maybe the U.S. Senate should conduct hearings and subpoena internal emails about the editorial decisions at such outlets and issue subpoenas to Matt Drudge and Rupert Murdoch to grill them about the "biased" nature of their editorial decisions. Because I'd love to get Murdoch under oath to defend his "Fair and Balanced" malarkey.

But wait: It gets even worse.

If you read the Gizmodo story that started all this nonsense, you find that the allegation about alleged Facebook suppression of conservative views -- an allegation that has gotten the whole conservative aggrievement industry in an outrage -- is based on the anonymous claim of one (1) person, described as a former journalist who has conservative leanings.

Furthermore, the allegation involved just one small part of the Facebook news aggregation process, its "trending" list.

As the Gizmodo story described this person's allegation:

"Stories covered by conservative outlets (like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax) that were trending enough to be picked up by Facebook’s algorithm were excluded unless mainstream sites like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN covered the same stories."

Horrors!!! In other words, the "curators" at Facebook are accused of doing the bare minimum of due diligence as aggregators by avoiding reliance on websites that have a terrible record of accuracy and fairness in favor of professional news outlets with reputations for at least trying to get things right.

How dare they care whether something is true or not before broadcasting it to Facebook users? Begin the congressional hearings!!!

Here's what else Gizmodo reported:

"Other former curators interviewed by Gizmodo denied consciously suppressing conservative news, and we were unable to determine if left-wing news topics or sources were similarly suppressed. The conservative curator described the omissions as a function of his colleagues’ judgements; there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work."

Yet we're going to have a Senate investigation?

It's hard to imagine a better example of just how stupid this whole thing has gotten.  The U.S. Senate refuses to do its constitutional duty of advising on the nomination to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat, a vacancy that has left the court in a four-four standoff unable to come to a decision on important legal questions. Yet that same body is going to go off on a half-baked investigation of media decision-making clearly protected under the First Amendment just so some senator can pander to conservative delusions of persecution?

This is the best use of their time and our taxpayer resources?


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.