Freshman Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a public letter to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai last week asking for him to explain the company’s work in China to the public. The letter followed Pichai’s week full of meetings in DC addressing comments made by US defense leaders in March.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting in March, General Joseph Dunford argued that Google’s current work in China “is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military.” The comments alarmed lawmakers and on Wednesday, Pichai met with President Donald Trump and Dunford in what appeared to be an attempt to deescalate tension.
Hawley asked the initial question that spurred the debate, and after taking note of Google’s meeting, he is now calling for the company to publicly address its approach in China.
“According to reports,” Hawley writes, “the work Google is doing with China not only includes development of artificial intelligence technology that may possibly be used by Chinese military and intelligence services to exploit Americans’ data and privacy, but also the introduction of platforms that advance a value system and modes of behavior fundamentally at odds with our own.”
Hawley has branded himself as one of the most aggressive lawmakers on the right concerned with Big Tech. As Attorney General in Missouri, Hawley open an investigation into Google for antitrust violations. That investigation is still ongoing. He’s also worked on legislation with Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) to amend the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act to increase privacy protections for some minors.
“I understand that today you have met with General Dunford and the President of the United States to address these concerns,” Hawley wrote. “Now meet with the American people by addressing publicly the work your company does in China, the benefits it may provide to the Chinese government and military, and your reluctance to partner or aid the Armed Forces of the United States.”