PICHAI AGREES TO HOUSE TES­TI­MONY AF­TER GOOGLE SKIPPED HEAR­ING

Business Standard - - FRONT PAGE - NAOMI NIX

Google Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Sun­dar Pichai, whose com­pany drew the ire of sen­a­tors for fail­ing to send a top ex­ec­u­tive to a hear­ing ear­lier this month, has agreed to ap­pear at an­other ses­sion on Capi­tol Hill.

Pichai had a round of vis­its in Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day and Fri­day, meet­ing with law­mak­ers and the White House’s top eco­nomic ad­viser.

“This is the start of a con­ver­sa­tion that I be­lieve is long over­due — and that re­spon­si­bil­ity falls on both sides," House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin Mc­Carthy said af­ter Pichai met with a dozen Repub­li­can House mem­bers. “As big tech’s busi­ness grows, we have not had enough trans­parency and that has led to an ero­sion of trust and per­haps worse — harm to con­sumers.”

Mc­Carthy said Pichai will be in­vited to tes­tify be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in a hear­ing later this fall and that Pichai wants to at­tend.

"As we’ve done for over a decade, in­clud­ing tes­ti­fy­ing to Congress 22 times since 2008, we re­main com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing an ac­tive di­a­logue with mem­bers from both sides of the aisle,” Pichai said in a state­ment af­ter the meet­ing. "I am per­son­ally com­mit­ted to tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in due course.”

Prom­i­nent Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, have ac­cused Face­book

Inc., Twit­ter Inc. and Google of si­lenc­ing con­ser­va­tive voices and news sources.

In May, Mc­Carthy crit­i­cised a display on the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Party that briefly popped up in rel­e­vant Google searches and de­scribed the group as em­brac­ing Nazism. Google blamed the episode on van­dal­ism of Wikipedia, from which it pulled the in­for­ma­tion. Dur­ing his meet­ing with Pichai, Mc­Carthy, a Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, high­lighted the im­mense power so­cial me­dia sites have in de­liv­er­ing news to read­ers.

Al­pha­bet, Google’s par­ent, de­nies it makes con­tent de­ci­sions based on pol­i­tics.

Pichai also met with Larry Kud­low, the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil, at the White House.

“NEC Di­rec­tor Larry Kud­low and Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai had a pos­i­tive and pro­duc­tive meet­ing this af­ter­noon,” White House Deputy Press Sec­re­tary Lind­say Wal­ters said in a state­ment. “They dis­cussed a range of is­sues im­pact­ing in­ter­net plat­forms and the econ­omy in gen­eral.”

Wal­ters said Pichai had agreed to at­tend a White House round­table with Trump "and other in­ter­net stake­hold­ers”.

Pichai also met with Hawai­ian Demo­cratic Sen­a­tor Brian Schatz dur­ing his rounds, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with his itin­er­ary.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions met with a group of state at­tor­neys gen­eral in a closed-door meet­ing ear­lier this week to dis­cuss con­cerns that tech com­pa­nies may be “hurt­ing com­pe­ti­tion and in­ten­tion­ally sti­fling the free ex­change of ideas.”

Google has also faced blow­back over news that it was de­vel­op­ing a project for a mo­bile search app that com­plies with Chi­nese cen­sor­ship rules.

Ear­lier this month, the Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­ni­abased com­pany faced sharp crit­i­cism from law­mak­ers for fail­ing to send a top ex­ec­u­tive to tes­tify be­fore a Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing on state-spon­sored elec­tion med­dling in­volv­ing tech­nol­ogy plat­forms. Google had of­fered to send le­gal and pol­icy chief Kent Walker, who was re­buffed by the com­mit­tee as in­suf­fi­ciently high-level.

‘As we’ve done for over a decade, in­clud­ing tes­ti­fy­ing to Congress 22 times since 2008, we re­main com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing an ac­tive di­a­logue’

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