Grilled on Hill, Google chief Pichai denies firm censors conservatives
The head of Google told Congress Tuesday that the firm has no political bias, pushing back against President Trump and top Republican lawmakers who say the world’s largest online search engine stifles content from conservative news outlets and personalities.
“I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said on Tuesday in highly anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests.”
The hearing was called by House GOP leaders to shine the spotlight on Google’s search algorithms, which Republican critics say suppress conservative viewpoints and give prominence to liberal media voices because Silicon Valley’s work force leans left politically.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican and member of the judiciary panel, cited statistics that show Google is responsible for 90 percent of all internet searches, but warned that there was a “widening gap of distrust between tech companies and the American people.”
“We need to be sure than any political bias within Google’s workforce does not leak into its search product,” the California Republican said.
Democrats came out in defense of the firm, with the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Jerry Nadler, New York Democrat, dismissing the idea that Google and other tech companies display any anti-conservative bias as a “fantasy” driven by Republicans.
Momentum has been building in Congress for legislation to regulate Google and other leading social media platforms firms for a score of problems that have arisen in the wake of Kremlin efforts to spread propaganda online during the 2016 presidential elections.
For Google, the bias issue has lingered, as have wider bipartisan worries across Capitol Hill that stricter privacy protections are needed for data the big tech companies’ collect from their billions of users.
Mr. McCarthy also raised major concerns over recent reports that the Silicon Valley-based firm is poised to re-enter China and work with the ruling Communist party to create a search engine tailored to the government’s censoring guidelines.
Mr. Pichai pushed back against the allegations, insisting Google never forgets its “American roots.”
“It’s no coincidence that a company dedicated to the free flow of information was founded right here in the U.S.,” he said. “As an American company, we cherish the values and freedoms that have allowed us to grow and serve so many users.”
His appearance before the House panel comes after he angered senators by declining to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in September focused on foreign efforts to manipulate social media platforms during U.S. elections.
While Facebook sent its CEO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter sent its CEO Jack Dorsey, the committee noted Mr. Pichai’s no-show by leaving an empty chair for Google alongside the other witnesses.