Overnight Tech: Republicans pounce on Facebook bias claims

LEDE: The controversy over alleged political bias at Facebook heated up Tuesday, with Republican lawmakers pouncing on the tech giant.

Senate Commerce Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph Thune15 senators miss votes despite McConnell's criticism of absentees Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up GOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work MORE (R-S.D.) demanded answers from CEO Mark Zuckerberg about allegations Facebook's trending topic section was unfavorable to conservative views and outlets.

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"If Facebook presents its Trending Topics section as the result of a neutral, objective algorithm, but it is in fact subjective and filtered to support or suppress particular political viewpoints, Facebook's assertion that it maintains a 'platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum' misleads the public," Thune said to Zuckerberg in the letter. You can read it here.

Thune also told reporters that he was pursuing the inquiry because of the Commerce Committee's interest in consumer protection. "Part of the jurisdiction of our committee is consumer protection, so we think it's a perfectly legitimate line of inquiry," he said. "We're not suggesting anything untoward on their part, we're just simply responding to some media reports and asking them to clarify what their policy is and whether or not they've been following it."

Meanwhile, we're told that Facebook will brief the House Energy and Commerce Committee on issues surrounding the allegations.

For more on the Republican demand for answers, click here.

And for more on Facebook's plans to brief House lawmakers, click here.

WHITE HOUSE WEIGHS IN: The White House on Tuesday praised Facebook's response to allegations that it has deliberately omitted stories from conservative media on its popular "Trending Topics" feature.White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during the daily briefing that the White House was "pleased" to see the statement from Facebook denying it engaged in such a practice. But the Obama aide suggested that it wasn't up to the social media platform to make sure its users were made aware of content from other political orientations. The Hill's Jesse Byrnes has more on the White House reaction.

WHAT FACEBOOK SAYS: The company says an initial review found no evidence of the allegations, first reported by Gizmodo, that curators for the trending topics section systematically suppressed conservative topics and news sources. "Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we've designed our tools to make that technically not feasible," said vice president for search Tom Stocky in a post. "At the same time, our reviewers' actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense." For more on Facebook's response, click here.

REALITY CHECK: Nilay Patel at The Verge offers a counter to the conservative concerns over the charges. "The only part of Facebook that matters is the News Feed inside the mobile app, and the trending news box is not part of the mobile News Feed -- it's buried deep inside the search menu," he said. "It might as well not exist." Read Patel's take here.

TRUMP UNMATCHED ON TWITTER: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE has consistently dominated buzz on Twitter since last October, according to a new graphic produced by the social media company. The only time his dominance was surpassed was in October following the first Democratic debate, when interest in Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Poll finds Libertarian Senate candidate running ahead of GOP in New Mexico Senate GOP targets musicians Ben Folds, Jason Isbell as 'unhinged left' ahead of rally for Dem candidate MORE peaked on the platform. You can view a timeline of the ebbs and flows here.  

DEM WANTED MORE CONDITIONS ON CABLE MERGER: Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn wanted additional conditions imposed on the Charter merger with Time Warner Cable, according to her statement released Tuesday. For example, she said there should have been conditions to require the company to focus its internet buildout more on underserved areas and to require the company to offer a competitive stand-alone internet offering to customers. The company told Clyburn it has no intention of discontinuing its stand-alone offering. She ended up approving in part and concurring in part. For more on the merger details, click here.

WIKIPEDIA STUDY GRANT SCORNED BY PAUL: Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPaul seeks to cut off Planned Parenthood funds via massive spending bill Arizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Trump plays 'quick round of golf' with Rand Paul in New Jersey MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday criticized a 2013 National Science Foundation grant for researchers at New York University to study the gender gap among Wikipedia contributors. Paul called attention to the $70,000 grant as part of his "waste report," that highlights examples of government funding he feels are unnecessary.

SMALL RIDESHARING COMPETITOR HANGS ON IN DC: A tiny competitor in Washington, D.C., to Uber and Lyft continues to grow modestly, according to The Washington Post. The app, called Split, pairs multiple passengers up with a driver, similar to Uber pool. Uber pool, with its army of drivers, launched last October in the nation's capitol. The Post reported Split is still hanging on and wants to take advantage of the Metro delays and closures that are scheduled over the next year.

ON TAP:

At 10 a.m., the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on "leveraging the U.S. science and technology enterprise." http://1.usa.gov/1sby4vW

At 10:15 a.m., a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will probe daily fantasy sports issues. http://1.usa.gov/1YkC476

At 2:30 p.m., The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the FCC's privacy rules. http://1.usa.gov/1QXOuM8

At 3 p.m., the president's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee will hold a meeting that will be live streamed.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

A top Republican senator on Tuesday demanded answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over allegations that the social media giant's trending news feature omits topics popular with conservatives.

The Energy and Commerce Committee next week will be briefed by U.S. wireless operators on a security vulnerability in the global cellphone network.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday released its more than 330-page order approving the huge merger of Charter, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Facebook employees as individuals have donated more than $114,000 to Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton to headline trio of DNC fundraisers: report Allegations of ‘Trump TV’ distract from real issues at Broadcasting Board of Governors Chelsea Clinton: Politics a 'definite maybe' in the future MORE this election cycle, by far the most of any presidential candidate.

The daily fantasy sports industry is preparing to face its congressional critics for the first time.

 

Please send tips and comments to David McCabe, dmccabe@thehill.com and Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com Follow us on Twitter: @dmccabe@_mariotrujillo@HilliconValley