May 23, 2016
The Honorable John Thune
Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Thune,
Private companies should be free to conduct their operations as they see fit, without undue governmental interference. As the nation’s original conservative grassroots organization, the American Conservative Union (ACU) strongly believes that free market principles provide the best solutions and options for American consumers. With regard to telecommunications and internet companies in particular, we agree with you that failed policies like the Fairness Doctrine exceed the government’s appropriate role and are ultimately harmful to consumers. The government should not regulate what social media companies post on their sites.
However, free markets only work when consumers have access to real information on which to make their decisions; in a word, Americans need transparency.
A week after a whistleblower revealed that Facebook staff suppressed conservative content on its Trending Topics (including news about the ACU’s annual conference, CPAC), Facebook executives held a meeting with many conservative leaders and media personalities. Although ACU declined the invitation to attend this meeting, news accounts and reports from attendees have made it clear that Facebook neither admitted to tilting the scales in favor of liberals, nor is willing to allow an independent investigation into this matter.
While ACU strongly believes Facebook should be permitted to conduct its business operations as it sees fit, under free market principles it must not deceive its users or its advertisers regarding whether it intervenes to tilt Trending Topics to favor liberal causes.
We applaud you for asking Facebook to answer very important questions and we encourage you to continue pressing until the matter is resolved. We agree that if Facebook advertises its Trending Topics section as neutral, it must be neutral, not biased against certain philosophical points-of-view.
As you are aware, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) takes seriously its mandate to protect consumers from false and misleading practices. We hope your Committee will root out existing problems and then work with Facebook to fix them so that the FTC is held at bay. We always believe voluntary compliance is superior to governmental intervention.
The ACU has reason to believe that there are whistleblowers who can advise the Committee of misconduct at Facebook. We hope the Committee will conduct interviews and that the whistleblowers have an opportunity to present evidence about how Facebook operates its Trending Topics.
Thank you for your leadership on this issue. The only way to preserve free markets and competition is by ensuring that consumers have confidence in the information they base their decisions on. We look forward to learning of the Committee’s next steps.
American Conservative Union
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