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Garland Robinette

Tune in to "The Think Tank" for independent, intelligent discussions with experts on matters of news, politics, science and much more!

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Garland: Could Facebook swing an American election?

Facebook may have been deliberately suppressing conservative news.  If true, is it legal? Can Facebook be forced to change?

My first reaction was "So what?" There's virtually nothing in today's media that isn't biased one way or the other. But in reading about this, I stumbled upon a work by Scott Allan Morrison, a veteran Silicon Valley journalist and author of new book, "Terms of Use," a thriller about the dark side of social media that speculates how a large social media company might try to swing an election. I invited him on the Think Tank this morning to see where the truth lies.

Could the fictional story in Morrison's book become a reality?

"I spent ten years covering the big internet companies, and the short answer is, they are amassing huge amounts of our data, data we don't even appreciate we're giving out," he said. "They are much more granular in the information they collect about us than we can even imagine... if they can manipulate our emotions, they can certainly manipulate our opinions. They story you referenced, that they are suppressing conservative views, is a disturbing one."

"Really what happened here is that some low level contractors were injecting their bias, conscious or unconsciously, into the stories they were putting up... and it could very well have just been the opposite, where conservative leaning employees might have done the same thing... regardless of whether they're suppressing liberal or conservative views, the fact that this is even possible highlights Facebook's ability to set the agenda and possible impact public opinion," he continued.

"We think of Facebook as a neutral platform, and it sells itself as one. So we have to be very careful about what comes out on Facebook."

Dr. Robert Hogan, LSU Professor of Political Science, joined me after the news to explain the story from his point of view.

"Social media sites have come to play a large role in Presidential campaigns in recent years... it's a major force in American politics today, so when you hear a story like this, that gives you some pause. i think people may not be fully aware of how FB works and how news gets to them. It raises serious questions," he said.

Could it be enough of a concern to where the government intervenes and puts in some sort of regulation there?

"What we're finding out is that the things that are on the "Trending" list is not simply put there by a mathematical algorithm, but is actually made in almost an editorial sense. And to the extent that humans are involved in that, it'll be subject to their biases... there have been calls to regulate old style media and there may be calls to regulate here but, it sounds to me like the nature and direction of that is coming from conservatives, who generally don't like government regulation, so I doubt you see much government intervention here.  

To listen to the full interviews with Morrison and Dr. Hogan, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland talks Facebook and the news

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05/10/2016 3:59PM
Garland: Could Facebook swing an American election?
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