December 11, 2018


Republicans Kept Embarrassing Themselves While Trying to Get Google's CEO to Admit the Company Was Biased Against Conservatives (AARON MAK, DEC 11, 2018, Slate)

At the beginning of the hearing, Texas Rep. Lamar Smith tried to needle Pichai with a series of studies and statistics claiming to show suppression of pro-Trump viewpoints in Google search results. Smith cited a claim from conservative outlet PJ Media that 96 percent of results for a search on news about Trump were from left-wing media and findings from psychologist Robert Epstein that Google could have swung 2.6 million votes in Hillary Clinton's favor during the 2016 election. Pichai responded that Google had investigated the specific findings, which allowed him to pivot the line of questioning to a debate over the studies' methodologies all while maintaining that Google in no way discriminates against conservatives.

Later on, Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot brought up his own grievances, claiming that Google had given lower page ranks to positive coverage of bills to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and to the 2017 Republican tax cut. "I understand the frustration at seeing negative news.

I see it on me on Google," Pichai responded, performing a bit of rhetorical jiujitsu. "There are times you can search on Google, and page after page there is negative news, which we reflect." Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat, later helped to underscore that point by complaining in jest that Breitbart and the Daily Caller seemed to dominate the first page of search results when he Googled himself.

These allegations of conservative bias also produced the hearing's most glaring gaffes--from the representatives. They played into criticisms that Congress lacks basic knowledge of the tech industry. In arguing that Google relies too heavily on "liberal" Wikipedia, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert admitted that his staff was altering his own Wikipedia page every night for two weeks, only to be rebuffed by the site's editors. (Wikipedia guidelines state that editing an employer's page is a "conflict of interest.") Iowa Rep. Steve King, after issuing several stern threats to impose regulations on Google to deal with political bias, ended his time asking why his granddaughter had come across a profane meme featuring his picture while using an iPhone. Pichai responded, "Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company."

Posted by at December 11, 2018 5:53 PM