Republican lawmakers still believe tech companies are biased against conservatives — and it doesn’t look as though that’s going to change anytime soon.
A number of politicians accused Google of bias in its search results during a hearing with CEO Sundar Pichai on Tuesday. The main argument from some members of the House Judiciary Committee focused on the fact that a lot of Google employees are liberal, which is common among Silicon Valley tech companies.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a republican from Florida, said that there are some Google employees who chat in a group thread about “resisting” President Trump and was confused why Pichai hasn’t conducted an investigation into employees’ political leanings.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, another republican from Texas, brought up a video, published by Breitbart in September, that showed Google executives openly discussing President Trump’s surprising 2016 victory and how it upset a lot of Google employees. “You run off conservatives and you embrace liberals,” Gohmert said.
These accusations of bias have been thrown around for years and aren’t specific to Google. Facebook and Twitter have also been accused of suppressing conservative news and opinions. There have already been multiple hearings with representatives from these companies this year where those accusations were discussed.
Tuesday’s hearing didn’t do anything to put that conversation to bed. A lot of bias accusations from lawmakers have stemmed from personal experiences, or testimonials from conservative commentators who have been suspended or banned from using these platforms for violating the rules. (The most famous of those, Infowars’ Alex Jones, was actually in attendance on Tuesday.)
Gaetz brought up a Wall Street Journal story from September that found some Google employees discussed boosting some “pro-immigration” resources around the time of Trump’s travel ban in early 2017. Google claims the ideas were never implemented. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey once said that the company was so liberal that conservative employees didn’t feel safe speaking out.
Stories like those have supported the idea that these companies are biased, but the lack of hard evidence or statistics means that the conversations around this topic routinely go the same way they went on Tuesday: Republican lawmakers claim that tech employees are biased, which means the systems they build are biased. Tech companies claim that the systems are not biased. Democratic lawmakers think the whole thing is a big waste of time and distracts from more pressing issues.
When asked Tuesday if he thought Google was biased, Pichai answered: “No, not in our approach,” an apparent acknowledgment that employees might be biased but that the company is not.
The conversation didn’t progress at all on Tuesday. If anything, Gaetz would like to keep the discussion going, and asked Google to conduct an investigation.
“I would strongly suggest that one of the crisis response tools that you use is an investigation into the discourse of your employees on resisting the Trump presidency, resisting the Trump agenda, and then smothering some of the conservative outlets that seek to amplify that content,” he said.