With top Facebook and Twitter execs testifying in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Google’s conspicuous absence drew the ire of several congressmen looking to press the “arrogant” ad giant on how it is fighting against the spread of misinformation.
“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,” Sen. Mark Warner said in his opening remarks.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg addressed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence alongside an empty seat left for Google. The committee had requested that Larry Page, chief executive of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, or Google CEO Sundar Pichai testify alongside their Silicon Valley peers on stopping political fake news. Instead, the company offered to send Kent Baker, its SVP of legal affairs. Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the committee, also said that he was “disappointed” by Google’s absence.
“I want to thank you both for being here, first of all. There’s an empty chair next to you from Google. They’re not here today, and maybe it’s [because] they’re arrogant,” Sen. Marco Rubio said. “Or maybe it’s [because] there’s a report” indicating “Kremlin-linked trolls” could still easily post ads on Google, Rubio said, referencing a BuzzFeed News report from Tuesday that showed that researchers were able to run ads disguised as the Internet Research Agency, Russia’s misinformation factory.
Google did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Dorsey and Sandberg outlined several measures their companies are taking to block the IRA and other foreign adversaries from meddling in the 2018 U.S. midterms. Twitter has suspended more than 3,000 trolls tied to the IRA, according to Dorsey’s opening remarks. Google recently launched a hub, similar to Facebook, where visitors can see who is financing political ads on its platform.