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

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