Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Facebook is Liberal?? WHAT???

News broke yesterday that everyone's favorite social media hub, Facebook, has been cooking it's news feed. Several former employees spilled the beans that the algorithm that was supposed to be driving its "whats trending" section was actually a room full of newly minted Ivy League millenials who were picking the news items which they thought should be trending. To the surprise of absolutely no one with half a brain, the stories favored by Ivy League millenials tended to be very complimentary of progressive politics to the near banishment of "conservative news" with the exception of anything that might cast that philosophy in a bad light. This morning comes news that the United States Senate is opening an "investigation" of Facebook. A few observations...

I suppose it's disappointing to learn just how many people get their news from Facebook, but this is the world we live in. It is also a little disappointing that Facebook would try to pitch a room full of news curators in the scientific language of algorithms. But, there is no news here. I have held to a conservative/libertarian political philosophy for nearly 35 years now, and in all that time, most newspapers, and almost the entirety of television news has been dominated by people who disagree with me. With the advent of social media, nothing has changed. Mark Zuckerburg is a reliable progressive, and he has a huge platform. So what? It's his company. He can do what he wants with it. That a Republican senator would want to launch an investigation into a private enterprise nosing around in its free speech rights is a ridiculous overreach. You know who else has a huge platform? Rush Limbaugh. I remain fiercely opposed to the Fairness Doctrine precisely because it is not a function of government to cast about looking for inappropriate speech to suppress. If Rush can attract 20 million listeners to a program that espouses conservative politics, good for him. If Facebook wants to push liberal news stories, that's their business. Nobody is holding a gun to my head forcing me to listen to Rush or read the news feed on Facebook. There are plenty of other places where I as a free man living in the United States can go to get my news. I don't need my government to be mucking around with those options.

When I first read this Facebook story I thought...why?? Why would Facebook try to make it look like its news feed was produced by an impartial algorithm, when in fact it was a news-driving project? Why not just drop the "what's trending" tag and be done with it? Perhaps they thought that if they could convince their users that one way of thinking politically was what everyone was thinking it would advance the progressive agenda via the social pressure of group-think. Or maybe it wasn't nearly as diabolical as all that. Maybe it was the fact that the kinds of stories favored by young Ivy Leaguers reflect the near unanimous opinions espoused by those institutions. Either way, none of this comes as a surprise to me. Anyone who is surprised just hasn't been paying attention for the past fifty years.

My opinion? Leave Facebook alone. It's Mark Zuckerburg's job as CEO of Facebook to bring value to his shareholders. By all accounts, he has succeeded. If you don't like his liberal politics, ignore the what's trending newsfeed and go back to bragging about your awesome workouts and the off the charts accomplishments of your children...cough...