Google CEO on the hot seat in congressional testimony today as leaked internal emails seem to contradict prepared testimony

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google (a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc.), is set to begin testifying before the House Judiciary Committee at 10 A.M. today in a hearing titled "Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices."  In his prepared remarks, Pichai is set to contradict some internal emails that have been leaked in advance of his presentation:

"I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way," the India-born Pichai said in prepared remarks.  "To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests.  We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions – and we have no shortage of them among our own employees."

Peter Hasson of the Daily Caller News Foundation presents the gist of leaked emails:

Google employees sought to block Breitbart from Google AdSense less than one month after President Donald Trump took office, leaked emails from the company reveal.

Google employees sought to use alleged "hate speech" as a pretense for banning Breitbart from taking part in the advertising program, the emails show.

Barring Breitbart from the advertising program would have a devastating effect on the site's ad revenue as Google accounts for roughly 37 percent of all digital advertising revenue

Breitbart obtained the emails and published them Monday night, one day before Google CEO Sundar Pichai is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.  A Google spokeswoman confirmed the emails's [sic] authenticity to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Perhaps Pichai will claim that all of this took place without his knowledge or consent:

Google employees crowd-sourced a spreadsheet of examples meant to show Breitbart engaging in "hate speech" as part of a internal lobbying campaign meant to pressure their higher-ups into removing Breitbart from AdSense.

"My team has been reviewing the site on a frequent (at least weekly) from the [original] fake news kick-off discussion," Google's director of monetization at the time, Jim Gray, assured employees concerned about Breitbart. Gray now is now Google's director of trust and safety.

Richard Zippel, a Google publisher quality manager at the time, similarly noted that Breitbart was being watched closely.  "When sufficient violations have been found we'll take action at the site level," Zippel wrote.  It's unclear whether Zippel is still a Google employee.

For the moment, Breitbart remains part of AdSense.

Pichai will probably present these claims, cited by the DCNF:

Google's spokeswoman denied that the company's advertising program is affected by political bias.

"We have extensive and very well publicized policies for publishers who choose to monetize with Google ads.  We enforce these policies vigorously, consistently and without any political bias," the spokeswoman wrote in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

"We regularly and routinely review sites in our ad network to ensure compliance with our policies.  These emails from early 2017 simply show the AdSense team explaining that such a periodic review was underway," the spokeswoman said.

I do not know if the committee will be hearing testimony from Harmeet Dhillon, the attorney representing fired Google engineer James Damore, but she has been conducting discovery in the course of preparing Damore's lawsuit, and she told Tucker Carlson last night about the evidence she has uncovered of political bias:

Google and Pichai have previously snubbed testifying about potential bias, as Shirin Ghaffary and Kurt Wagner write in Recode:

Tuesday's public testimony will be Pichai's first before Congress in a year in which many of his tech peers have also traveled to Washington.  He notoriously declined an invitation to attend a hearing in September that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey attended.  The Senate committee that held that hearing left an empty chair and nameplate in his place.

Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce (cropped).

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