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Google plans to send a top executive to Congress after facing criticism

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who has agreed to testify to Congress. (Jeff Chiu/AP)
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Google said Monday that Sundar Pichai, its chief executive, has agreed to testify to Congress this year following Republican lawmakers' continued criticism that major tech platforms and social media sites are censoring conservatives online.

Pichai agreed to participate in the unscheduled hearing in response to a request from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who like other Republicans, including President Trump, has blasted Google on grounds that it silences right-leaning news, views and users — and has failed to answer lawmakers' questions in person.

Ahead of the hearing, Pichai plans to visit the nation’s capital Friday to meet with Democratic and Republican members of Congress, including a session with McCarthy and two dozen GOP colleagues, a spokesman for the GOP leader confirmed Monday. The visit comes weeks after Pichai and Larry Page, the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, each declined to appear at a hearing focused on the 2018 election, sparking bipartisan outrage.

“I look forward to meeting with members on both sides of the aisle, answering a wide range of questions, and explaining our approach,” Pichai said in a statement Monday. “These meetings will continue Google’s long history of engaging with Congress, including testifying seven times to Congress this year.”

When he arrives in Washington, Pichai is sure to face a barrage of bipartisan scrutiny — on an array of topics including the company’s approach to privacy protection and its efforts to thwart foreign governments, including Russia, from spreading disinformation online. Many, including McCarthy, have blasted Google for its reported ambitions to launch a search engine in China that meets Beijing’s strict censorship rules.

Google’s ‘no-show’ in Congress adds to its political headache

But Google must also combat heightened election-year attacks that it is biased against conservatives. Trump has accused Google of “rigged” search results against him, giving better billing to negative stories about his administration — a charge the president levied without evidence.

Google has denied it rigs its search results.

Trump’s top aides later suggested regulating Google’s presentation of search results. For its part, the Justice Department plans to convene state attorneys general — which have the power to investigate and penalize tech giants such as Google — for an event in Washington on Tuesday exploring Silicon Valley’s online filtering practices.

Trump’s close confidants, including his son Donald Trump Jr., lambasted Google after Breitbart this month published a video of the search giant’s executives addressing employees after the 2016 election. In an attempt to console employees, Pichai in particular said that Trump’s victory had caused “a lot of fear within Google.” And internal Google emails surfaced by the Wall Street Journal showed company engineers discussing ways to tweak search results in a way to help users who were looking to fight the president on his travel ban, though such ideas never were implemented.