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Google House hearing: Ted Lieu tears into GOP Congress members

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WASHINGTON — A Democratic congressman went after a Republican colleague on Tuesday during a hearing with the CEO of Google, citing negative search results about a congressman who repeatedly has been accused of making racially insensitive remarks.

During a House Judiciary hearing in which Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified, California Rep. Ted Lieu singled out Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who saw many high-profile donors retreat from supporting him in the wake of increased scrutiny over his remarks and actions.

Read more:Republicans and high-profile donors are suddenly abandoning Steve King after years of racial insensitivity

Lieu read headlines from a Google search about the House Majority Whip, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise. Noting that the articles about Scalise were all positive and include citations from conservative media outlets, Lieu asked Pichai whether individuals at Google were manipulating those results to favor Scalise.

“You don’t have a group of people at Google, sitting there thinking, ‘Hey, we like Steve Scalise, we’re going to generate positive articles on these search results,” he said. “That’s not what’s happening, right?”

Pichai answer no, and added, “We don’t deal with individual queries and with any viewpoint.”

But then Lieu pivoted — pulling out his smartphone for a search in real-time — and entered King’s name into Google.

King, who was sitting across the room on the powerful House panel, became visibly perturbed.

“I’m going to change one word. So I’m going to search for ‘Congressman Steve King,’ I’m going to hit the ‘news’ tab. First article that pops up is from ABC News,” Lieu said. “It says Steve King’s racist immigration talk prompts calls for congressional censure. That’s a negative article. But you don’t have a group of people at Google thinking and trying to modify search results — every time Steve King comes up, a negative article appears, that’s not what’s happening, right?”

Pichai again said no, reiterating that Google does not manipulate results for individuals like that.

“So let me just conclude here by stating the obvious,” Lieu responded. “If you want positive search results, do positive things. If you don’t want negative search results, don’t do negative things.”

“And to some of my colleagues across the aisle, if you’re getting bad press articles and bad search results, don’t blame Google or Facebook or Twitter, consider blaming yourself,” he added.

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