Google declines to appear before Senate panel

A US Senate Intelligence Committee panel convened to investigate election meddling, mark empty chair "Google" in the giant's absence


A panel convened by the US Senate Intelligence Committee to address the issue of Russian election meddling has been passed on by representatives from Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. The hearings focused on understanding vulnerabilities in social media and were directed at the decision-makers from these platforms.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook's, both accepted the invitation from the US Senate and bore the brunt of the majority of senators' questioning. However, Google opted to face the repercussions and chose to send neither Google's founder Larry Page or CEO Sundar Pichai.

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Google did offer to send its legal and policy chief Kent Walker, but the panel declined the offer due to its intent to talk directly to decision-makers from these organizations. Google has, until now, valued its "good corporate citizen" status and had generally experienced positive bipartisan support for many years. However, with recent conspiracy theories regarding anti-conservative bias being espoused by President Donald Trump in recent weeks and impending midterm pressures to explain Russian interference before the election, it is possible representatives at Google figured it would be less damaging to simply not attend.

"I’m deeply disappointed that Google – one of the most influential digital platforms in the world – chose not to send its own top corporate leadership to engage this committee," commented the ranking Democrat on the panel, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia.

"Given its size and influence, I would have thought the leadership at Google would want to demonstrate how seriously it takes these challenges and to lead this important public discussion," he added.

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