Google hearing a preview for Democrats’ strategy on big tech
Democrats and Google executives worked arm in arm for years, particularly during the Obama administration. But when Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, testifies before Congress on Tuesday, some of the toughest questioning is likely to come from Democrats.
The hearing will provide an early glimpse of how Democrats plan to approach Silicon Valley giants in the coming year as they assume control of the House of Representatives. And the testimony from Pichai, who is appearing before lawmakers after initially resisting, may provide clues about how he and the company will approach them. Democratic lawmakers, angry about Russian misinformation online during the 2016 campaign and concerned about the expanding influence of tech’s biggest companies, are expected to target the industry in the next Congress. Some have already raised concerns about potential antitrust and privacy violations, showing more willingness than Republicans to regulate an industry viewed as an engine of economic growth.
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democrat, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, have warned that Amazon and other tech giants aren’t paying fair wages. Two other Democrats, Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, have called for privacy and online ad legislation, saying big tech companies can’t be trusted to regulate themselves.
Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, said, “We need to restore competition and protect our rights online.” He added: “The promise of an open internet is fundamentally threatened by the ability of a few powerful gatekeepers to bully competitors, cripple innovation and exploit consumers. This must be a top priority going forward.”
Over the past year, Google has avoided the intense scrutiny heaped upon internet rivals, even as it grappled with questions about privacy and misinformation on services like YouTube. But the company upset lawmakers when it decided not to send a top executive to testify alongside leaders of Facebook and Twitter at a hearing a few months ago.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai