ON TUESDAY, THE House Judiciary Committee had the opportunity to question one of the most powerful people on the planet—Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, the company that filters all the world’s information. And they blew it.
Over the course of three and a half hours, the members of the committee staked out opposite sides of a partisan battle over whether Google search and other products are biased against conservatives. Republican members largely criticized the company for burying conservative websites in search results and amplifying criticism of conservative policies—accusations that Google has repeatedly denied. Democrats only poured fuel on the fire by spending their allotted five minutes helping Pichai shoot down those trumped-up claims, which are hard to prove either way thanks to the company’s black box algorithms. The rhetorical tennis match left precious little time for committee members to explore in any detail the urgent questions around Google’s interest in building a censored search engine for China, the company’s bulk data collection practices, its recent security breaches, or issues related to competition and antitrust regulation.