Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz grilled Google’s CEO at Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on Google employees’ alleged political bias.
Gaetz pushed Google CEO Sundar Pichai to explain why Google had not investigated whether Google employees had manipulated search tools or other Google products in light of communications like emails about Breitbart that leaked Monday.
“I am now reading about the discussion that occurred over Breitbart and Google ads, and I’m quoting from one of your employees who purportedly posted ‘anyone want to to hold their nose and look through Breitbart.com for hate speech?’ Why would someone need to hold their nose over that work?” Gaetz asked Pichai.
The employees were working together in an attempt to classify parts of Breitbart’s website as hate speech and get its advertising removed.
Pichai relied on his argument that Google’s product development process has too much oversight and too many steps for a few employees to alter them out of political motivation.
“Congressman, today we have 90,000 employees, and they communicate in forums as a company we have allowed freedom of expression, and we don’t stand or condone comments expressing these things. We are very clear as to our policies of how we build our products, and we serve our publishers that way,” Pichai responded.
Gaetz has been a vocal critic of many tech companies, especially Twitter. He threatened to file a Federal Elections Commission complaint against Twitter in July for allegedly suppressing, or “shadow banning,” his Twitter account.
Gaetz, a lawyer, pressed Pichai to elaborate on what circumstances would make Google launch an investigation into employees.
“How can I have confidence that you’re protecting the sanctity of your system when you don’t even know your employees are getting together on your own company’s infrastructure to talk about political activity?” Gaetz asked Pichai.
“At any given moment we assume that somebody may be acting in bad faith, and that’s how we have designed our systems with all the protections in place,” Pichai said.
“So if your assumption is that people can act in bad faith, why, then, have you not launched an investigation into the communications that seem to indicate a desire to suppress conservative political movements and conservative voices?” Gaetz asked.
“If there are allegations around, you know, discussions which are specific with the intent of manipulating our products, we would conduct an investigation,” Pichai said.
Republican lawmakers grilled Google over examples of political bias. Those examples include leaked emails published by The Daily Caller News Foundation that showed the tech giant’s employees debated burying conservative media outlets in Google’s search function as a response to President Donald Trump’s election.
The hearing with Pichai was originally scheduled for Dec. 5 but was pushed back because of former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral.
Pichai had received criticism for declining to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in September although another Google executive submitted written testimony.
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