Overnight Tech: Facebook under fire for alleged political bias

LEDE: Facebook is facing the most intense challenge yet to its insistence that its platform is politically neutral.

Gizmodo published a report this morning alleging that "curators" behind the site's "Trending" feature on its homepage had been excluding topics popular with conservatives as well as stories from right-leaning news source. That would be a major knock to the company's long-stated claim to provides a platform for political debate but doesn't influence it.

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Facebook punched back this afternoon. "We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum," the company said. "There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality. These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another. These guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics." For more on the allegation of bias, click here. For Facebook's response, click here.

ONE CONSERVATIVE DEFENDS FACEBOOK: Leon Wolf, writing for RedState, said that their website has always been treated fairly by Facebook and their employees. The outlet was one of the websites named in the Gizmodo story. "But on the whole it's a good thing that Facebook's editorial practices receive more scrutiny, because of the immense power that Facebook yields," Wolf said. "That is particularly true when content distribution decisions are made by human beings, as opposed to software algorithms that are (at least theoretically) objective."

OF COURSE: Gizmodo's report was referenced on the "Trending" sidebar today.

CONTEXT: It's impossible not to view these stories in light of Mark Zuckerberg's recent comments criticizing "fearful voices calling for building walls" a likely allusion to and the decision by one Facebook employee, also first reported by Gizmodo, to internally pose a question of the CEO asking whether they were responsible for preventing Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE from becoming president. It also comes as Facebook continues to court Republicans (and Democrats) to capture their political ad dollars. For more on the political spotlight on Facebook, click here.

EMAIL PRIVACY PRESSURE: Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAmnesty International calls to halt Kavanaugh nomination Kamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal Dem senator praises Ford opening the door to testifying MORE (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThis week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos Ex-college classmate accuses Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week MORE (R-Utah) on Monday published an op-ed in The Hill calling for the Senate to "take up" an email privacy bill that recently passed the House. On the same day, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Jordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee Kamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal MORE (R-Wis.) issued a press release making the same argument: "The House unanimously passed this bill with a 419-0 vote. Now we need the Senate to follow suit and send this critical legislation to the president's desk."

ADVOCATES TARGET AMAZON OVER TRUMP: The advocacy group UltraViolet Action organized 1,500 shareholders to send a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pressing the company to stop selling Donald Trump menswear on the e-commerce site.  The letter noted that retail stores like Macy's did the same after the GOP front-runner's presidential launch speech in which he disparaged Mexican immigrants.

TWITTER MAPPING: A new project through Indiana University allows people to easily put together graphics to plot the spread of hashtags and other trends on Twitter. The project lets you measure a trend over time, map its spread or see what kind of networks were discussing it. It will even create YouTube videos to map the spread of hashtags, like this one showing the growth of #DropOutHillary after last week's primary.

 

ON TAP:

At 9:30 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Google and Oracle headed back to court Monday in a case that could have significant ramifications for the future of software development.

Regulators have started scrutinizing smartphone makers and wireless carriers about how they issue software updates and patch security vulnerabilities.

Government debt collectors would be able to robocall an individual three times per month to provide information or collect payment, according to a proposal adopted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Twitter has barred U.S. intelligence agencies from accessing a service that monitors and sorts the entire worldwide volume of tweets in real time.

Uber and Lyft are leaving Austin, Texas, after voters rejected a ballot initiative allowing them to avoid running fingerprint-based background checks on their drivers.

 

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