Google CEO Sundar Pichai is heading to Capitol Hill next week — just a month after his top legal officer got blasted by Republican lawmakers over the search giant’s alleged discrimination against conservatives, sources told On The Money.
For Pichai, billions of dollars in revenue could be at stake as the fate of a proposed antitrust bill hangs in the balance. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has promised to bring the Senate bill — the Internet Innovation and Choice Act — to the floor but hasn’t yet set a date.
The so-called “non-discrimination bill” would stop tech platforms from “self-preferencing” their content. In the case of Google, the company would no longer be able to promote its own apps over those of competitors.
Pichai is slated to meet with legislators including Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and John Thune (R-SD), sources close to the situation said.
Google declined to specifically comment on the meetings between Pichai and lawmakers.
In a statement to The Post, a Google spokesperson said, “We regularly engage with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on a range of issues including economic growth, small business support, immigration reform and cybersecurity. We’ll continue to engage on issues relevant to people and businesses using our products.”
While insiders say Pichai is eager to address concerns over Google’s monopoly power, sources close to him and Thune say they have a very different agenda in mind.
Earlier this week, Thune introduced legislation that would stop Google from using an algorithm that disproportionately marks emails from Republican politicians as spam. If the meeting with Google’s legal chief Kent Walker is any indication, Pichai is in for a potential smackdown.
Last month, a consortium of Senate Republicans met with Walker to discuss alleged bias, according to Politico. The meeting turned hostile, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) claiming, “Google deflected, refused to provide any data, repeatedly refused to answer direct questions.”
Thune, along with 20 other Republican co-sponsors, points to a recent study from North Carolina State University that Gmail marks 67.6% of emails from Republican politicians as spam whereas only 8.2% of emails from Democrats end up in the spam folder.
Researchers have said those results have more to do with past user behavior than political bias. But Republicans aren’t satisfied with the answer, and are telling insiders that before they address Google’s antitrust concerns, they will make Google address their own gripes, a source adds.
These sources say the algorithm still hurts Republicans’ messaging and campaigning and they want clarity about how it works. They add Google’s email processes are a “black box” and regardless of whether bias is implicit or explicit, it is unfair to Republicans.
Representatives for Daines and Thune didn’t respond to requests for comment.