“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation,” said Benjamin Franklin, “must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” The value of exposure to different viewpoints and opinions should be obvious. As such, recent news revealing censorship of conservative viewpoints and information ought to be troubling to everyone, not only to those with a conservative bent.
Writing for the tech website Gizmodo, Mike Nunez reports that “Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section.” A former Facebook-employed journalist told Nunez that workers quashed news stories involving Louis Lerner (of IRS infamy), Rand Paul, CPAC, and other conservative topics. Several Facebook “news curators,” as they term themselves, told Gizmodo that they were instructed to inject news stories into the “trending” section, even though the stories weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion. Of course, Facebook was quick to deny the allegations, but Gizmodo stands by its claims.
Actually, such politicized behaviour by Facebook is nothing new. Last year, the Israeli NGO Shurat Hadin decided to test allegations that Facebook had an anti-Israel bias. Shurat Hadin created two parallel extremist Facebook pages, one anti-Palestinian and one anti-Israeli. They posted equivalent inflammatory material on both sites (“Death to the Jews,” “Death to the Arabs,” and the like), then reported both pages as violations of Facebook standards. Sure enough, the anti-Arab page was shut down by Facebook for its violent message. The anti-Israel and anti-Jewish page, however, was allowed to remain; in replying to the NGO’s complaints about the page, Facebook stated that it was “not in violation of Facebook’s rules.” Only when Shurat Hadin released a video chroniclingthe despicable double standard did Facebook shut down the page. As a matter of fact, Facebook is even facing a lawsuit for facilitating anti-Israel terror.
After reading the Gizmodo allegations, Senator John Thune (R, South Dakota) sent a letter to Mark Zuckerburg requesting more information about Facebook content regulations. Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority leader Harry Reid mocked the move, ridiculing Senate Republicans for thinking that “Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest.” Well, actually, the free exchange of information is quite crucial to democracy and does merit national interest. Perhaps Mr. Jentleson ought to reacquaint himself with the reason the Founders chose to write the First Amendment.
…The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed.
– Thomas Jefferson