Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What? SD Senator Thune Wants The Government To Regulate News Content On The Internet? Seriously?

Can't See 'Em . . . 
But I Think His Thumbs Are Down
(photo from
       How wierd is this?  Our Senator John Thune is calling in the federal cavalry because yesterday the news broke that some former Facebook staffers claimed that they were ordered to manipulate the Facebook news feed.  They told the website Gizmodo that the goal was to "suppress conservative news." Though a Facebook user myself, I rarely glance at the newsfeed scroll, so I haven't got a clue about its ideological bias, if any.  Just the same, even if the bias exists, I don't get where the federal government has a place in monitoring or even questioning it.  I mean, this is still America, right?  
     Thune takes a different view.  His sternly worded letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg politely asks Zuckerberg to "please provide responses" to a list of questions about the structural and editorial aspects of the "Trending Topics" section, then peremptorily sets a May 24 deadline for a response, which apparently is meant to take place before Thune's Senate Commerce Committee. Thune says in his letter that the committee has "oversight authority" in the matter.
      Actually, I think this is bunk.  First off, I'd like to see where Thune's committee has any "oversight authority" when it comes to monitoring news content to begin with.  He himself led the charge to remove the "fairness doctrine" from broadcast communications in 2007.  Writing about the measure in a RealClearPolitics op-ed, Thune said, "I will do my part to insure speech remains free and that Americans can continue to debate the issues of the day through our diverse forms of media in a free and open manner."  Kudos for those sentiments, Senator Thune, but how do they square with
The Constant Commoner . . . 
To Thune
your demand that Facebook--certainly a part of the many "diverse forms of media" in place today--answer to you and your committee for the way it wants to present the news?   As it turns out, even though Thune's '07 effort apparently went nowhere, the "fairness doctrine" itself was eventually expunged by the Federal Communications Commission in 2011.  There seems to be no codified justification for Thune's notion that his committee has oversight authority when it comes to news content on the internet. When Thune lost his battle on net neutrality last year, the upshot was that the FCC would gain regulatory control of the internet. However, as the "fairness doctrine" is no longer in place, I still don't get where the source of power for content oversight is.  I don't think it exists.  If I'm wrong, I invite his office to correct me here.

     Meantime, Thune's quick assertion of federal authority is amazingly at odds with his general stance against government overreach.  If you Google "John Thune government overreach," you will get countless pages of articles in which the senator utters the phrase "government overreach" to criticize legislative actions on fronts as diverse as energy policy, waterways management, Supreme Court nominees and healthcare--and that's just on the first Google page.  Now all of a sudden Thune wants to extend the government's reach to a website and how it develops and disseminates its news content?  It makes no sense.  Thune should drop this silly idea posthaste.  


  1. Precisely. His actions fly in the face of the better parts of Conservatism and most especially that thing called the First Amendment which guarantees not just freedom of speech, but freedom of the press. You start getting uppity with Facebook's edited (even if by algorithm) trending news, and you might as well start trying to curb editorial departments at newspapers.

    South Dakota has one of the highest per cap uses of Facebook and only keeps growing. My thought is that this is merely a PR stunt to make people think he's their flavor of Republican Culture Warrior. Sigh.

  2. Not to mention that Facebook, like Fox News is a private corporation. Last I heard, they can say whatever they want.

  3. Fox News-Fair and Balanced, Thune doesn't have a problem with the garbage they spew out. Wonder what the difference is. (eye-roll)

  4. Regulate biased content? Two words: Fox News