SEPTEMBER 25, 2018
Google CEO Sundar Pichai plans to meet privately with top Republican lawmakers on Friday to discuss a variety of topics, including the company’s alleged political bias in search results.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), who is organizing Friday’s meeting, told the Wall Street Journal that Pichai has “kindly” agreed to address Republican congress members’ questions on Friday.
“Google has a lot of questions to answer about reports of bias in its search results, violations of user privacy, anticompetitive behavior and business dealings with repressive regimes like China,” McCarthy told the Journal, which reported the meeting Monday.
Friday’s private meeting, and a public hearing later this year before the House Judiciary Committee, comes amid growing bipartisan concern of large tech companies’ size and influence. Google is among a handful of tech companies that has drawn flak for the perception it reflects a liberal bias.
“I look forward to meeting with Members on both sides of the aisle, answering a wide range of questions, and explaining our approach,” Pichai said in a statement confirming a meeting had been scheduled. “These meetings will continue Google’s long history of engaging with Congress, including testifying seven times to Congress this year.”
The meeting will occur a little more than a week after a report in the Journal said Google employees discussed changes to the company’s web search functions to counter the Trump administration’s controversial travel ban that went into effect last year.
“Recent news stories reference an internal email to suggest that we would compromise the integrity of our search results for a political end,” Pichai reportedly wrote in a memo to employees on Friday. “This is absolutely false.”
It also follows the publication last week of a video from 2016 that shows Google co-founder Sergey Brin telling a company gathering that he felt offended by the results of the 2016 US presidential election.
Last month, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to accuse Google of manipulating search results to suppress conservatives viewpoints. After notorious far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was kicked off Facebook, iTunes, Twitter, and other services, Trump alleged that social media companies were discriminating against the right.
Congress has held several hearings to explore how tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter deal with content on their sites, among other issues. In general, the hearings have been divided along partisan lines when it comes to bias, with some Republicans asking questions about a perceived anti-conservative bent, and Democrats focusing on queries about how sites have let themselves be played by propagandists and others looking to spread misinformation and sow division in the US.
Earlier this month, Google skipped a high-profile hearing on Capitol Hill, at which Congress grilled Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over election integrity, security and the perceived leanings of the company’s algorithms. The decision to not send Pichai or Alphabet CEO Larry Page drew widespread ire from lawmakers.
McCarthy also reportedly wants to discuss reports Google is secretly developing a new search engine and mobile news app that would allow the Chinese government to censor search results for its citizens. The alleged secret project reportedly codenamed Dragonfly, led to a protest by more than 1,000 Google employees who objected to their working toward supporting state-sponsored censorship.
McCarthy couldn’t be reached for comment Monday evening.