Senate launches inquiry into allegations of slanted Facebook Trending Topics
Is Facebook manipulating the Trending Topics? The US Senate wants to know.
After the story broke of possible rigging in Facebook’s Trending Topics — certain news content being purposely swept under the rug in favor of promoting content with a different viewpoint — Facebook has gotten itself into more hot water.
Today, Gizmodo has followed up on the story, acknowledging that the US Senate Commerce Committee, a government entity responsible for overseeing internet communication, media issues and consumer protection issues, has made an inquiry to Facebook to get a broader understanding of how Facebook curates its highly popular trending sidebar.
The letter, which is embedded below, requests insight into Facebook’s organizational structure for Trending Topics and steps for determining the topics. It also asks if any type of manipulation has occurred to introduce the slants that were part of yesterday’s allegations and is requesting that Facebook provide details for its ongoing investigation into the matter.
To address Facebook VP of Search Tom Spocky’s rebuttal of the claims, the committee also wants to learn about the guidelines that are in place to prevent tampering of the Trending Topics and whether training is in place to ensure that no abuse occurs.
Finally, the committee has requested information regarding accountability and whether there are records when staffers insert stories into the Trending Topics. Of course, questions are arising that are specific to the allegations of conservative news being excluded, and the committee is looking for information about that as well.
Update May 12, 4:15pm: The Guardian has published Facebook’s official guidelines for Trending News which show that humans are intervening at every stage of the trending news operation.