House Google Hearing Confirms Bipartisanship on Internet Platform Issues

Government scrutiny of Internet platform unaccountability is here to stay because it is a strong bipartisan concern and interest.   

Yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices” featured Google CEO Sundar Pichai as the lone witness.

The hearing provided a ~30 congressperson data-set and proxy for where Google specifically, and Internet platforms generally, stand politically at this point in the techlash gauntlet.   

Bipartisanship Confirmed: For anyone doubting that there is strong bipartisan interest in bringing accountability to unaccountable Internet platforms like Google, this hearing was an outstanding public experiment to test and confirm that bipartisan thesis.

Context is critical for those unfamiliar with this committee. The House Judiciary Committee is well-known as the most publicly partisan committee in Congress -- by far.

Overall for this committee, and for these members, this Google oversight hearing was bipartisan on the issues, in an otherwise hyper-partisan overall environment.

For sure, some partisanship occurred at this hearing, just as the sun rises every morning, but for this committee it was relatively tame, and isolated to the one issue that is inherently always politically partisan, i.e. the issue of perceived platform electoral bias, which naturally is driven almost entirely by the political truism of where one stands depends on where one sits.

Over-focus on that normal partisan dynamic misses the forest for the trees.

The hearing exhibited bipartisan agreement that:

·        Google is exceptionally dominant in search overall and with that power comes responsibility;

·        Google should not help China oppress its citizens with a Google-China search censorship engine;

·        Internet platform power to discriminate unaccountably against competitors is a problem;

·        Consumers have little Idea how much data Google collects on them; and

·        Consumers need better protection of their privacy and data, especially when it comes to Android’s location tracking by default.

In a big change from the past, when both sides publicly jockeyed to be Google’s ally and protector from government, this hearing’s statements and questioning from ~30 committee members made clear that the era of blind trust in Internet platforms, including Google, is over, and both sides no longer want to be perceived by consumers to be Google’s government enabler or protector from accountability and transparency.   

Bipartisan Distrust of Google: Google’s biggest bipartisan distrust problem is Google’s reported and confirmed plans to eventually launch a Google censored-search engine for China.

A reportedly planned Google search censorship partnership with communist China to perfect China’s surveillance and of control over 1.4b Chinese is the perfect example and metaphor to understand why there is bipartisan distrust of Google in the U.S. and with populaces around the world, because it goes against everything Google has said that it stands for and does, and is the antithesis of its public policy positions that were instrumental in Google gaining users trust across the globe.   

Google’s founders have said they built Google upon the premise that you can trust Google.  

Google branded and marketed itself as the world biggest opponent of censorship, champion of freedom, openness, free speech, democracy. And Google describes itself as not a traditional company, but a company worthy of trust, with a “don’t be evil” motto, and “do the right thing” corporate policy, ethics, and morals.

And Google has long promised and publicly represented that its search results are objective/unbiased, and that they would never manipulate search results. In 2010, Google exited the China market over China’s search censorship then.

Yesterday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai in responding to House Judiciary members concerns and questions about Google’s filtering and alleged discrimination in search, repeatedly said in different ways that Google is completely neutral and does not filter for one point of view, at the same hearing where he also assured skeptical committee members that “right now, there are no plans to launch search in China,” and added that a hundred Google engineers were part of Google secret team that produced a functional Google-China search censorship engine.

Google has birthed a new oxymoron: neutral censorship.     

When the only entity in the world that controls access to all the world’s information, evidently flips their identity and character from standing for trust-building principles, values, and endeavors, to strategically trust-destroying acts, behaviors, and practices it naturally garners substantial bipartisan distrust.    

Bipartisan Interest in Privacy and Data Security: The hearing showed bipartisan interest in Google’s outsized collection of private data, especially Android location tracking data.

It was noteworthy that members’ privacy and data collection questions, went well beyond high-level questions and got very interested in specifics and in trying to understand what actually was being done, and if the user controls Google claimed had been effective in doing what consumers wanted and directed.

Overall, there was bipartisan skepticism in the members statements and questions about the consumer-friendliness of Google’s everchanging long privacy-policies, terms-of-service, and consumer controls that signaled they were looking at the problem the way consumers look at it, not the way Google looks at it.

The bipartisan number, quality, and practical specificity of the hearing questions on privacy and data collection exhibited serious bipartisan interest in the problem and in legislating a solution.


Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an Internet competition and policy consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Internet platform competitors. Cleland has testified before the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google. Eight different Congressional subcommittees have sought Cleland's expert testimony and when he worked as an investment analyst, Institutional Investor twice ranked him the #1 independent analyst in his field.


Precursor LLC Research on Asymmetric Accountability Harms:


Part 1:   The Internet Association Proves Extreme U.S. Internet Market Concentration [6-15-17]

Part 2:   Why US Antitrust Non-Enforcement Produces Online Winner-Take-All Platforms [6-22-17]

Part 3:   Why Aren’t Google Amazon & Facebook’s Winner-Take-All Networks Neutral? [7-11-17]

Part 4:   How the Google-Facebook Ad Cartel Harms Advertisers, Publishers & Consumers [7-20-17]

Part 5:   Why Amazon and Google Are Two Peas from the Same Monopolist Pod [7-25-17]

Part 6:   Google-Facebook Ad Cartel’s Collusion Crushing Competition Comprehensively [8-1-17]

Part 7:   How the Internet Cartel Won the Internet and The Internet Competition Myth [8-9-17]

Part 8:   Debunking Edge Competition Myth Predicate in FCC Title II Broadband Order [8-21-17]

Part 9:   The Power of Facebook, Google & Amazon Is an Issue for Left & Right; BuzzFeed Op-Ed[9-7-17]

Part 10: Google Amazon & Facebook’s Section 230 Immunity Destructive Double Standard [9-18-17]

Part 11: Online-Offline Asymmetric Regulation Is Winner-Take-All Government Policy [9-22-17] 

Part 12: CDA Section 230’s Asymmetric Accountability Produces Predictable Problems [10-3-17]

Part 13: Asymmetric Absurdity in Communications Law & Regulation [10-12-17]  

Part 14: Google’s Government Influence Nixed Competition for Winner-Take All Results[10-25-17]

Part 15: Google Amazon & Facebook are Standard Monopoly Distribution Networks [11-10-17]

Part 16: Net Neutrality’s Masters of Misdirection[11-28-17]

Part 17: America’s Antitrust Enforcement Credibility Crisis – White Paper [12-12-17]

Part 18: The U.S. Internet Isn’t a Free Market or Competitive It’s Industrial Policy [1-4-18]

Part 19: Remedy for the Government-Sanctioned Monopolies: Google Facebook & Amazon [1-17-18]

Part 20: America Needs a Consumer-First Internet Policy, Not Tech-First[1-24-18]

Part 21: How U.S. Internet Policy Sabotages America’s National Security [2-9-18]

Part 22: Google’s Chrome Ad Blocker Shows Why the Ungoverned Shouldn’t Govern Others [2-21-18]

Part 23: The Beginning of the End of America’s Bad “No Rules” Internet Policy [3-2-18]

Part 24: Unregulated Google Facebook Amazon Want Their Competitors Utility Regulated [3-7-18]

Part 25: US Internet Policy’s Anticompetitive Asymmetric Accountability - DOJ Filing [3-13-18]

Part 26: Congress Learns Sect 230 Is Linchpin of Internet Platform Unaccountability [3-22-18]

Part 27: Facebook Fiasco Is Exactly What US Internet Law Incents Protects & Produces [3-26-18]

Part 28: How Did Americans Lose Their Right to Privacy? [4-14-18]

Part 29: The Huge Hidden Public Costs (>$1.5T) of U.S. Internet Industrial Policy [4-15-18

Part 30: Rejecting the Google School of No-Antitrust Fake Consumer WelfareStandard [4-20-18]

Part 31: Why New FTC Will Be a Responsibility Reckoning for Google Facebook Amazon [4-27-18]

Part 32: “How Did Google Get So Big?” Lax Bush & Obama FTC Antitrust Enforcement [5-23-18]

Part 33: Evident Internet Market Failure to Protect Consumer Welfare -- White Paper [5-31-18]

Part 34: What Happened Since FTC Secretly Shut 2012 Google-Android Antitrust Probe? [6-8-18]


Part 35: Buying WhatsApp Tipped Facebook to Monopoly; Why Didn’t FTC Probe Purchase? [6-19-18]


Part 36: The Sea Change Significance of Simons-FTC Privacy and Antitrust Hearings [6-27-18]


Part 37: New U.S. Privacy & Data Protection Law Is Inevitable Like a Pendulum Swing [7-9-18]


Part 38: Why a U.S. v. Google-Android Antitrust Case Is Stronger than US v. Microsoft [7-16-18]


Part 39: Google-Android’s Deceptive Antitrust Defenses Presage a US v. Alphabet Suit [7-20-18]


Part 40: Case Study of Google Serial Over-collection of Private Data for FTC Hearings [7-30-18]


Part 41: The Unfair and Deceptive Online-Offline Playing Field – FTC Hearing Filing [8-7-18]


Part 42: What Most Stunts FTC Antitrust and Consumer Protection Law and Enforcement? [8-21-18]


Part 43: Why New U.S. Privacy Data Protection Law Will Preempt State Privacy Laws [8-27-18]

Part 44: What’s the FTC Hearing before their Hearings on the Unlevel Playing Field? [9-6-18]

Part 45: Google Facebook & Amazon’s Anticompetitive Nontransparent Exchange of Ideas [9-12-18]

Part 46: The Unlevel Playing Field of Asymmetric Competition Expectations [9-17-18]

Part 47: How EU Amazon Antitrust Probe Spotlights Amazon as an Unlevel Playing Field [9-26-18]


Part 48: Google Facebook Amazon’s Non-Neutral, Neutrality Nonsense Harms Competition [10-2-18]


Part 49: FTC-DOJ Signal Privacy Is a New Antitrust Risk for Google Facebook [10-9-18]

Part 50: Google+’s Market Exit Spotlights Google + Facebook Cartel Market Allocation [10-16-18]

Part 51: Google Facebook Amazon’s Civil Liability Immunity = A Culture of Un-Ethics? [10-23-18]

Part 52: Google Facebook & Amazon’s Efficient Vortex Traps [10-31-18]

Part 53: The Bipartisan Politics Case for More Google Facebook Amazon Accountability [11-8-18]

Part 54: The Bipartisan Case for Modernizing Net Neutrality & Online Privacy Policy [11-15-18]

Part 55: Google Facebook Amazon’s Non-Neutral No-Privacy Paid-Prioritization Models [11-30-18]

Part 56: Antitrust Pollyannaism: Google Facebook Amazon = New Entrants Not Incumbents [12-7-18]