The Senate Has No Business Investigating Facebook

The Senate Has No Business Investigating Facebook

Quit the platform if you don’t like it.

If you’re put off by freedom-hating Attorneys General trying to shut down speech, or the Democratic Party’s crusade to inhibit political expression by overturning Citizens United, or you thought the Fairness Doctrine was basically censorship, I’m not sure how you rationalize supporting the GOP Senate’s investigation into the conduct of Facebook.

Though in this case, many liberals will argue that corporations deserve the same constitutional protections as regular people, but it’s been the Left that wanted to give government the power to dictate what kind of cakes Americans bake, who they have to let into their bathrooms, what ingredients they must not put in their food and whose contraception they must buy. Conservatives have, in the past few years, avoided such intrusions. Now they want to get involved in demanding private companies adhere to speech codes?

The very threat of investigating Facebook’s editorial decisions—conduct that is, in various forms, widespread in the mass media—is already harassment. Mere days after we learned that the journalists sold us a pack of lies about the Iran Deal, the most important thing Sen. John Thune (Grandstand, SD) can think to do is demand that Facebook “answer these serious allegations” and “hold those responsible to account if there has been political bias in the dissemination of trending news.”

Must it?

I mean, does Facebook even have to link to any conservative news stories? And do we really want the Senate defining what constitutes “conservative” news, anyway? Will the Senate next investigate FOX News for claiming to be fair and biased?

Facebook does not enjoy any anti-trust exemptions, but nevertheless, the Senate’s Commerce Committee, which Thune heads and has jurisdiction over media, internet and consumer protection issues, sent a letter to Zuckerberg demanding answers. It features questions like this one:

  • Please describe Facebook’s organization structure for the Trending Topics feature, and the steps for determining included topics. Who is ultimately responsible for approving its content?

In a free nation, the appropriate answer to this query would be ‘none of your freaking business.’ In a free nation, the appropriate market response is for someone to start another company that offers consumers a social media platform that is more to their liking. Now, if cronyism inhibits this kind of competition because companies like Facebook and Google artificially undermine competition, then let’s look into ways to foster a healthier marketplace rather than dictating what fake algorithms used by lefty billionaires and executives should look like.

Is it fair to say that Facebook could swing an election? I doubt it. But that’s on voters, not Facebook, in the same way the vacuous arguments of Bernie Sanders regarding democracy being broken because some people have more money to spend than others ring hollow. We can’t mangle free expression because voters are too lazy to read more than one source. The social media company ‘suppresses’ news stories that would e conservative readers from the “trending” news section, according to a former employee. Now you know. And if you use Facebook at all, you probably suspected this already. If you didn’t, start reading Facebook like you do the New York Times or any other big city newspaper.

Facebook isn’t a monopoly. One way I know this is that I learned about Facebook’s unethical handling of the news from another media source. Actually, I learned about it on another social media platform altogether. A monopoly is the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service. The “trending” news section is only part of Facebook’s services, anyway. There are countless other aggregators of political news. If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanted to transform his trending list into Huffington Post—which is what it’s sort of like already—he should be free to do so.

Quit the platform if you don’t like it.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.
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