Senate committee looks into Facebook's news filtering methods

They've sent a letter out of concern that Facebook's curation is silencing conservative views.

AP Photo/Ben Margot

It's not just your right-leaning friends worried that Facebook is pruning conservative perspectives out of its Trending News section. The US Senate's Commerce Committee (led by Republican John Thune) has sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg asking him to answer questions about Facebook's news curation methods. The group wants the social network to not only explain its news curation methods and policies, but show how it's investigating alleged exclusions of conservative stories. Does it keep records of the judgment calls that curators make, for example?

The company has until May 24th to provide info, and Zuck is supposed to make staff available if the committee has any questions.

Facebook hasn't formally responded to the letter as we write this (we've asked it for comment), but it has already denied playing fast and loose with its rules on political objectivity. As it stands, it's not clear that this is anything more than an attempt to court outrage while it's still hot. After all, it's not as if the Senate can dictate Facebook's news policy without running into thorny free speech issues. We'd add that Senate letters only occasionally translate to real action -- this investigation could easily fizzle out unless there's concrete proof of something shady going on.