TR Daily Lee, Johnson, Cruz Ask Google About Get-Out-the-Vote Messaging
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Friday, November 6, 2020

Lee, Johnson, Cruz Ask Google About Get-Out-the-Vote Messaging

Citing a recent study of Google LLC’s get-out-the-vote messaging by a longtime critic of the company, Sens. Mike Lee (R., Utah), Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), and Ted Cruz (R., Texas) have asked Google LLC Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai to review his statement at an August congressional hearing that Google does not "modify" its products to "promote a particular political viewpoint."

On Wednesday, Robert Epstein, who testified at a July 2019 Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution hearing regarding "censorship through search engines" as senior research psychologist for the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, responded to an inquiry from Sen. Johnson about his monitoring of pre-election online activity by stating that a study involving "a politically-diverse group of 733 field agents in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina" found that between Oct. 26 and Oct. 29, "only our liberal field agents received vote reminders on Google's home page. Conservatives did not receive even a single vote reminder. This kind of targeting, if present nationwide, could shift millions of votes, in part because Google's home page is seen 500 million times a day in the U.S."

According to the senators’ letter to Mr. Pichai, dated yesterday, Mr. Epstein added, "The good news is that it appears that we got Google to stop this manipulation four days before Election Day. On Thursday, October 29th, I sent materials about the monitoring project to Ebony Bowden, a reporter at the New York Post, who was writing a story about the project. I did so knowing that all nypost.com emails are shared with algorithms and employees at Google.

"Late night on the 29th, two notable things happened: First, Ms. Bowden's article, which was about possible large-scale election rigging by Big Tech, was pulled by the Post. Second, Google's targeted messaging stopped completely. From midnight on the 29th to the end of Election Day, all of our field agents have received the vote reminder. Because of the demographics of the people who use Google, this is still a vote manipulation, but it is far more benign than the extreme targeting we detected last week," Mr. Epstein added.

The senators told Mr. Pichai that the findings of the study make it appear that "his assertion at the August hearing that ‘We won’t do any work, you know, to politically tilt anything one way or the other’ is not true."

They added, "We will be asking Dr. Epstein to provide Congress with the evidence of Google’s politically biased activities his monitoring collected during this election cycle. We are writing to provide you another opportunity to conduct a thorough review with your management team to determine the veracity of your previous responses to congressional inquiry regarding this issue, and correct your answers if necessary."

They asked for his response by Nov. 12. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress InternetIoT

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