US Congress Grills Sundar Pichai with aggressive questions for anti-competitive behavior
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House antitrust subcommittee, grilled Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, with an aggressive line of questions during the tech antitrust hearing. His first question was: “Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?” he asked a series of questions accusing Google of crushing rivals. He said that Google’s dominance harms the economy and leaves consumers with no choice, but to use their products.
Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, tried to convince the House Judiciary Committee that their business practices don’t amount to anti-competitive monopolies.
Cicilline alleging a pattern of anti-competitive behavior, that allowed Google to grow big whereas smaller businesses were crushed, said, “It is Google’s business model that is the problem. Our documents show that Google evolved from a turnstile to the rest of the web to a walled garden that increasingly keeps users within its sites.”
Cicilline as an example even cited specific emails from over a decade ago between Google employees discussing traffic and sites that were growing. Cicilline alleged, “Employees started to fear competition from certain websites that could divert search traffic and revenue from Google.”
Cicilline stated, “These documents and emails show that Google’s staff discussed the proliferating threat’ that these web pages pose to Google. Any traffic lost to other sites was a loss in revenue.”
Google is already under several formal antitrust investigations by law enforcement. Yelp a company has even accused Google of stealing its content in search, diverting clicks from their sites and onto Google’s. Cicilline said investigations show that when Yelp raised concerns with Google, the company threatened to delist it unless it was allowed to scrub its content.
Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet parent company Google responded to the concerns saying, “When I run the company, I’m focused on giving users what they want. We conduct ourselves to the highest standard.”
Cicilline said that interviews with small businesses and emails between Google employees suggest that that the company uses insights from surveillance over web traffic to identify potential competitors and that it boosts its sites and products in search.
The Justice Department and state attorneys general are engaged in probes of Google. California opened its antitrust investigation into the company earlier this month.
Pichai did not deny the allegation directly. “Congressman, just like other businesses we try to understand trends from, you know, data, which we can see, and we use it to improve our products for users
Cicilline even questioned Pichai about Google’s search practices, including its scraping of content like restaurant reviews. He said, “Why does Google steal content from honest businesses?” When Pichai was on nonspecific denial mode, he further questioned if there was a conflict of interest between Google’s goal of sending people to relevant websites and its incentive to sell ads and promote its services — and produced a memo where Google complained that some vertical search sites were getting too much traffic.
Pichai was asked to pledge that “Google will not adopt the bigoted anti-police policy of ending tech contrasts with law enforcement agencies, following a letter last month from over 1,650 Google employees alarmed by police brutality.”
Pichai answered, “Congressman, we have committed to working with law enforcement in a way that is consistent with law and due processes in the US.” Pichai also mentioned about his humble upbringing.