Democratic Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen asked Google to look into its search engine’s “overuse” of conservative news outlets at a hearing on transparency and accountability at Google on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Cohen’s remarks centered on his experience Googling himself following cable news appearances and finding stories about his appearances on outlets like The Daily Caller and Breitbart.
“This weekend I was on MSNBC four times,” Cohen told Google CEO Sundar Pichai during the hearing. “Yet the first thing that comes up is The Daily Caller, not exactly a liberal, but I guess a well-known, group. Then it’s Roll Call, then Breitbart News, then the Memphis Business Journal, then Breitbart. So it looks like you are overly using conservative news organizations on your news. I’d like you to look into overuse of conservative news organizations to put on liberal people’s news on Google, and if you’d let me know about that I’d appreciate it.”
Republican lawmakers grilled Google over examples of political bias. Those examples include leaked emails published by The Daily Caller News Foundation that showed the tech giant’s employees debated burying conservative media outlets in Google’s search function as a response to President Donald Trump’s election.
“You know, we do get concerns across both sides of the aisle,” Pichai said. “I can assure you we do this in a neutral way, and we do this based on a specific keyword, what we are able to assess.” (RELATED: Google Employees Debated Burying Conservative Media In Search)
Leaked Google emails surfaced as recently as Monday night. Breitbart published emails showing that Google employees tried to block Breitbart from Google AdSense less than one month after Trump assumed the presidency. (RELATED: Trump Family Is Worse Than Al Capone’s Criminal Empire, Says Democratic Rep Steve Cohen)
“According to the Wall Street Journal, 90 percent of all Internet searches go through Google. That is power,” committee member and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at the Tuesday hearing. “It comes with responsibility. Mr. Pichai, it was necessary to convene this hearing because of the widening gap of distrust between technology companies and the American people.”
The hearing with Pichai was originally scheduled for Dec. 5 but was pushed back because of former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral.
“What is important here is we use the robust methodology to reflect what is being said about any given topic at any particular time,” Pichai said while being questioned. “And we try to do it objectively using a set of rubrics. It is in our interest to make sure we reflect what’s happening out there in the best objective manner possible. I can commit to you and assure you we do it without regards to political ideology. Our algorithms have no notion of political sentiment.”
Pichai had received criticism for declining to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in September although another Google executive submitted written testimony.
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