Google pulled a fast one last week, and their stunt has attracted the ire of Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill.
Scheduled to put Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Google instead sent written testimony from Walker, angering the members of the committee. This was an unwise move for Google, which is one of several tech giants under sharp scrutiny from an increasingly-exasperated Congress. Instead of addressing concerns that they are allowing liberal bias to influence their search results (the Republicans’ accusation) or that they are pandering to foreign governments (a bipartisan concern), Google left the panel free to simply bash them for an hour.
At a time when Silicon Valley is getting closer to being regulated with every passing day, this was not a good time to call in sick.
Sen. Mark Rubio (R-FL) said that Google didn’t appear before the committee for one of two reasons: “Because they’re arrogant,” or because they don’t want to answer sharp questions about their business dealings in China.
Sen. Tom Cotton said that Google should have to answer questions about why they ended a Pentagon relationship while diving headfirst into a partnership with a shady Chinese telecom company.
“Perhaps Google didn’t send a senior executive today because they’ve recently taken actions such as terminating cooperation they had with the American military,” Cotton said. “Programs like artificial intelligence which are designed not just to protect our troops and to help them fight and win our country’s wars but to protect civilians as well. Perhaps they didn’t send a witness to answer these questions because there is no answer to these questions.”
With President Trump hinting that Google and other tech giants could be in an “anti-trust situation” and senators like Orrin Hatch vowing to investigate that very matter, this is the wrong time for them to play games with Congress. No one who considers themselves a conservative should want to see heavy-handed regulations fall on these companies, but there comes a point where enough is enough. Perhaps Google isn’t a true “monopoly” and perhaps Facebook isn’t either…but you would have to be kidding yourself if you think they are really in fair competition with the rest of the field.
That’s not necessarily a call for regulation, but it IS a call for these companies to take the threat seriously. If they can’t prove to America that they are using their powers of influence responsibly, they could easily wind up bringing about their own destruction.