President Trump said on Tuesday morning that his administration will potentially investigate Google, after tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel claimed the company’s artificial intelligence operation has been “infiltrated” by the Chinese government — a claim Google has denied.
“Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government,” Trump tweeted in reference to a segment on “Fox & Friends.” Trump added that Thiel is a “great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone,” before saying “the Trump Administration will take a look!”
“Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government.” @foxandfriends A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2019
During an interview with Tucker Carlson on Monday night, Thiel said he thinks it is “peculiar” that Google had ended its relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense last year, but continued to work with China. Google decided to not renew its contract with the U.S. Government on Project Maven, an A.I. operation that analyzed drone footage. Thiel added it was easy to believe Chinese operatives had worked their way deep into the company’s AI program.
“I think, you know, it’s been – they described it as a Manhattan Project for A.I. So if you go around broadcasting that you’re building a Manhattan Project for A.I., I would think this naturally would draw the attention of foreign intelligence agencies,” Thiel told Carlson.
“I think the Chinese are confident enough, the Ministry of State Security is likely to have infiltrated Google, and then I think the Google management has sort of a decision of either letting the software go out the front door, or figuring, it will get stolen anyway and go out the back door.”
A Google representative said Thiel’s claims were baseless.
“As we have said before, we do not work with the Chinese military,” the rep said. “We are working with the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, in many areas including cybersecurity, recruiting and healthcare.”
Thiel’s comments to Carlson came a day after he said the FBI and CIA should investigate Google’s ties to China.
Thiel isn’t the only prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur that’s worried about AI. Elon Musk, for one, has voiced his concern A.I. will move beyond “narrow AI” — expertise in specific fields, like chess — and learn at a more rapid rate than humans can. This scenario would potentially lead to AI working towards objectives that are not in-line with their creators — something Musk has said could be “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”
Despite the president’s comments, Google’s stock was up about 0.5% in early-morning trading on Tuesday.