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Dem. Rep. Accuses Google of ‘Overusing Conservative News Organizations’ in Search Results

Representative Steve Cohen (D, Tenn.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2017 (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Representative Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.) chastised Google for elevating content produced by conservative news organizations in its search results during CEO Sundar Pichai’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

While questioning Pichai, Cohen complained that when he appears on cable-news networks such as MSNBC, the news articles detailing his appearance that populate at the top of Google search results are often produced by conservative news and opinion websites such as The Daily Caller and Breitbart.

In his opening remarks before the panel, Pichai vigorously denied that Google’s search algorithm and the company’s other platforms and products are imbued with political bias, as has been charged by conservative pundits and lawmakers.

“I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” Pichai said in his prepared remarks. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions — and we have no shortage of them among our own employees.”

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee emphasized the extent to which Google controls the dissemination of politically relevant information and the responsibility to the American public that follows from that influence.

“According to the Wall Street Journal, 90 percent of all searches go through Google,” House majority leader Kevin McCarthy said to kick off the hearing. “That is power. It comes with responsibility.”

Pichai’s first appearance before Congress comes on the heels of reports detailing anti-conservative bias among Google staffers. Democratic lawmakers downplayed the reports and joined Pichai in arguing that the personal political bias of Google staffers has no effect on the operation of the company’s search engine.

Democrats and Republicans alike expressed concern over reports that Google is developing a censored search engine, known as “Project Dragonfly,” specifically for use in China.

“Right now we have no plans to launch in China,” Pichai said in response to questions about whether Google is working with the Chinese state to further its censorship efforts. “We don’t have a search product there.”

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