Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, last week came to Washington last week on a charm campaign meant to gentle officials concerned about the company’s size, scope and questions of whether its technology is set up with a bias toward conservative content sources.
The Google boss didn’t testify during a week consumed by the partisan brawl over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. But, Pichai said, he would return to testify “in due course.”
That statement to the New York Times comes as big tech companies including Google are coming under increasing scrutiny by politicians concerned about antitrust issues, election security, and fairness. While other tech executives appeared recently before the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify about foreign election meddling, Pichai didn’t.
Now, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, a frequent critic of Google, says he expects Pichai to return to Washington after meeting with the CEO. According to the Times:
The meeting on Friday with Mr. Pichai, which Mr. McCarthy and eight other Republican lawmakers attended, seemed to smooth over relations. But suspicions of political bias remained.
“I see a hearing right now looking at bias, looking at all the issues we talked about, from privacy to China,” Mr. McCarthy said after the meeting. He does not expect the hearing to focus on antitrust concerns and whether Google should be broken up, he added.
After avoiding much of the scrutiny heaped upon its internet rivals over the last year, Google has been thrust into the harsh spotlight in recent weeks. Conservatives have accused the company of using its dominance of online search to provide results slanted against Republicans — a charge the company denies.
Mr. Pichai’s no-show at the hearing this month — captured by images of an empty seat alongside executives from Facebook and Twitter — added to the rancor. Leaks of employee emails discussing ways to counter President Trump’s immigration policy, and video of a companywide meeting that showed executives lamenting his election victory, have also fueled the allegations of bias.