It’s been a tough year for tech companies in 2018, as many of them have faced questions about their handling of consumers’ data and the impact of their actions on the modern political climate. Most notably, Facebook and Twitter have been the big names that have come under fire. But when Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared before Congress this month, he faced a variety of questions about privacy, data collection, and the company’s strategy with regard to China.
According to CNBC, one of the key issues debated during Pichai’s House hearing was the allegation that Google’s search results reflect a political bias. Prominent conservatives have complained that Google searches have turned up an inordinate amount of negative content about their side of the aisle.
Google has denied having any bias, and Pichai insisted that no one is purposely skewing search results toward any particular ideology. For the moment, House Republicans are unconvinced, and they’re hell-bent on making this an issue.
“[Google] has great influence over what millions of people can and cannot find on the Internet,” said Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader. “[That power] comes with a responsibility to its users.”
While Pichai denies any bias at Google, these hearings have still raised interesting questions about the search giant’s role in shaping the political climate. The public has become increasingly skeptical about Silicon Valley tech companies and their ability to control how people find information (and misinformation). Google has largely tried to duck this conversation—the company declined to send either Pichai or Alphabet CEO Larry Page to Washington last year when Congress held hearings to discuss foreign election meddling.
But with the latest clamor about biased search results, Google has been forced to break its silence. Multiple Congressmen this week have harped on the issue, forcing it into the national spotlight. For the most part, though, this has been strictly a Republican issue, as Democrats have taken Pichai at his word about Google’s search algorithms. For example, Ted Lieu, a Democratic representative from California, said that any Republicans upset about their search results should look in the mirror.
“If you want positive searches, do positive things,” Lieu said. “If you get bad press, don’t blame Google. Consider blaming yourself.”
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