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Steven Crowder, a conservative comedian and former contributor to Fox News, has filed a legal motion against Facebook. Crowder states that this legal action has been in the works for a long time, and the recent allegations that conservative news is suppressed by Facebook has merely accelerated the process but is not the cause. He is also emphatic that this is not a lawsuit, it is merely a petition for pre-suit discovery. However, an actual lawsuit is expected to be forthcoming against the company.

Crowder’s motion is the result of an ongoing dispute with Facebook which hasn’t reached a resolution. Crowder argues that Facebook has misappropriated money which was meant to be used in Facebook’s ads program. The second point of contention is that Crowder claims his account has been targeted for suppression by the social media corporation. For example, the filing claims that his ability to invite users to like posts he had made was deactivated by the site. This claim of suppression is apparently bolstered by the recent allegations by former Facebook employees that conservative news was being suppressed from trending topics. Crowder himself was mentioned in a list of topics that were supposedly being suppressed.

A statement by Crowder reads, “Facebook has every right to curate any content they so desire on their platform. However, Facebook’s bullying methods of operation in tandem with both the long-standing evidence of misconduct and the allegations newly brought to light require further investigation given the direct financial ramifications on business clients acting in trust with Facebook.” Based on his statements, it appears Crowder has no issue with Facebook suppressing news, or even deleting posts made by conservatives for that matter. His major point seems to be that they must be open and honest with business partners about the reason they are being targeted if their content is being suppressed. So far, Crowder has received no explanation for his treatment.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s alleged suppression of conservatives has attracted the attention of lawmakers as well. The Senate committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology has opened an investigation over this matter. Committee Chairman John Thune stated, “Facebook must answer these serious allegations and hold those responsible to account if there has been political bias in the dissemination of trending news. 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.” Thune also called on CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer a series of questions by May 24.

Senate minority leader Harry Reid was critical of Republican efforts to investigate the social media giant. Reid stated, “The Republican Senate refuses to hold hearings on Judge Garland, refuses to fund the President’s request for Zika aid, and takes the most days off of any Senate since 1956, but thinks Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest. The taxpayers who pay Republican senators’ salaries probably want their money back.”

Should Facebook be investigated over political bias, or are they within their rights to curate as they see fit? Do they have a responsibility to inform users if they are editing the trending section? Leave your comments below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • Azure

    With over 1 billion users I would assume they would have to inform their users of tampering. They have a lot of power to manipulate public opinion. Didn’t Facebook dump a load of gasoline on top of the BLM pile to make the movement rapidly grow?

  • The Dread Cassowary

    I would say yes. It’s a huge outlet for information, they should be held to a higher standard.

  • Doc Hammer

    The question in my mind is thus: since Facebook as a social media outlet is a source of news through trending topics and as an aggregator of other news sources, does this require that they should be held to journalistic ethics? The users, after all, are the ones making the posts and Facebook is a publicly traded company and is thus only truly accountable to its shareholders. But considering their global reach, one could conceivably argue that they have a moral obligation to be unbiased or as Crowder argues, be honest and upfront about their bias.

    At the very least, this discussion should prove to be interesting.

  • DukeMagus

    He won’t be able to prove it

  • Strazdas

    not sure how pouring gasoline on BLM would make it grow. I would hope it would make it burn.

  • Strazdas

    While news agreggation can be a use for facebook its primary use is social networking and therefore they do not count as a news source. All the news are posted by users and not facebook itself. So no, they are not journalists and therefore dont have to follow journalist standards.

  • Doc Hammer

    I wouldn’t make the argument that they are journalists but that they provide a platform which journalists use. I agree that it isn’t their responsibility, much like they shouldn’t be held liable for what their users independently post. However, I feel that the case can be made here that a deliberate lack of transparency on this issue was unfair to users who thought they had equality of access to the platform.

  • Strazdas

    I agree that they should be held accountable for lack of transparency and unfair access of information. This however has nothing to do with journalistic ethics.

  • Doc Hammer

    What possesses a man to comment and not saying anything new?

  • Strazdas

    The need to express oneself more clearly.