Google Doesn't Take Bias Hearing Seriously, Cruz Move Will Make Company Regret It


Though Democrats, the liberal media and giant tech companies routinely deny that there is any overt ideological bias by social media platforms, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, and even as the problem has been called out with increasing alarm and frequency, it only seems to be getting worse.

As such, a subsidiary of the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee — the Subcommittee on the Constitution, chaired by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — held a hearing Wednesday titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse,” to which the three major Silicon Valley tech firms were invited: Facebook, Twitter and Google.

While Facebook and Twitter sent high-level executives to testify and answer questions at the hearing, there was no representative for Google. Axios reported Tuesday that Republican committee members had rejected the junior staffer Google initially offered to send.

“The committee negotiated with Google to send a more senior representative from Google comparable to the representatives that Facebook and Twitter committed to send,” an unnamed committee staffer told Axios. “Google was unable to provide someone in time so the subcommittee will be hosting a hearing with Google only in the coming weeks.”

The news that the search engine giant would be subject to a separate hearing all by itself, without the benefit of the other tech firms to share the heat it will likely receive, was probably not what Google officials wanted to hear.

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During the Wednesday hearing, Cruz opened with a statement about the importance of free speech and the dangers to that freedom posed by bias and censorship against conservatives — or anyone else, for that matter — by the tech companies.

He also spoke of potential remedies to what he said had become “problematic,” such as removing the special immunity from liability the tech firms enjoy, subjecting the firms to antitrust action or even prosecuting them for fraud in light of the dishonest facade the firms portrayed to users.

Following an opening statement from the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — who claimed there was no evidence of bias and suggested conservatives should be more careful about what they post on social media if they don’t want to be banned or suspended — Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was given the opportunity to speak about her own experience being censored and silenced by the tech firms.

After Blackburn’s remarks, the representatives of Facebook and Twitter delivered their opening statements. Cruz thanked the two witnesses and said, “I’ll note also for the record that originally there was planned to be a third witness from Google, as the ranking member observed. However, Google declined to provide a witness of comparable seniority and responsibility in the company as the other two witnesses here.

“And so, accordingly, this committee will be conducting a separate and subsequent hearing focused directly on Google and the issues of Google’s censorship of speech.”

Making matters even worse for Google, Cruz and the other Republicans on the subcommittee will no doubt be well-prepared to pepper whomever Google sends with a litany of pointed questions, particularly in light of a shocking new report — really, a confirmation of suspicions — that Google has been manually censoring conservatives.

The Daily Caller reported Tuesday that Conservative Tribune, the commentary section of The Western Journal, and several other right-leaning websites had been placed on a blacklist maintained by Google’s Orwellian-named Trust & Safety Team, preventing the sites from surfacing in certain Google search results.

The Daily Caller said it obtained an internal memo from an unidentified Google employee laying out how the blacklist worked and which sites would end up on it, ostensibly for violating the company’s “good neighbor” and “misrepresentation” policies.

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Should the tech companies be held accountable for bias and censorship?

The memo also reportedly revealed that the practice involved the use of a “manual review tool” in the process of blacklisting sites. That is notable in light of prior congressional testimony by Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

“We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result,” Pichai told Congress in December. “It is not possible for an individual employee or groups of employees to manipulate our search results.”

It sure looks like Google’s CEO was less than totally honest and forthcoming, at the very least.

Whoever the company chooses to go before the Senate subcommittee will certainly have some explaining to do.

UPDATE, April 12, 2019: Two days after this article was published, The Western Journal received additional information from a source within The Daily Caller that indicated that Google’s blacklist was not limited to conservative or right-leaning websites and that such websites may not even constitute the majority of sites on the list.

The Western Journal has not seen either the entire list or the excerpt of the list in the possession of The Daily Caller, and therefore has no way to verify the accuracy of this description independently. The ideological leanings of the websites included in the list, however, is not relevant to the point that Sundar Pichai’s claim that Google employees do not “manually intervene” in search results appears, if these documents are authentic and accurate, to have been a calculated deception.

In light of this new information, we made one change to the first sentence of the article to make clear the possibility that publishers of varying ideological slants may be affected by Google’s secret blacklist program.

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Ben Marquis is a writer who identifies as a constitutional conservative/libertarian. He has written about current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. His focus is on protecting the First and Second Amendments.
Ben Marquis has written on current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. He reads voraciously and writes about the news of the day from a conservative-libertarian perspective. He is an advocate for a more constitutional government and a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, which protects the rest of our natural rights. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the love of his life as well as four dogs and four cats.
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