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US senator demands answers from Mark Zuckerberg over Facebook's alleged news censorship

A senior senate republican has called into question Facebook's censorship policies following allegations that the social giant's employees suppress the coverage of right-wing news in its Trending Topics section.

Writing to the firm's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, South Dakota senator John Thume submitted a request for more information on the matter, asking how many stories related to conservative viewpoints had been excluded from the platform. He has also asked Facebook to supply a a list of all stories removed from or injected into the Trending Topics section since its launch in January 2014.

"Social networks such as Facebook are an increasingly important source of news for many Americans and people around the world," wrote Thume, adding: "Indeed, with over a billion daily active users on average, Facebook has enormous influence on users' perceptions of current events including political perspective."

Earlier this week, former Facebook employees told Gizmodo that as curators of the service they were routinely asked to suppress Conservative news, including stories about Mitt Romney and Rand Paul.

Addressing the claims, Thume asserted: "If Facebook presents its Trending Topics section as the result of a neutral, objective algorithm, but it is in fact subjective and filtered to support or suppress particular political viewpoints, Facebook's assertion that it maintains a 'platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum' misleads the public."

The social network has denied the allegations, with vice-president of search, Tom Stocky, saying Facebook has "found no evidence" to support the story.

"There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality," he noted.

"These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritisation of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another.

Facebook has until 24 May to respond to the senator's request.

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