Committee rescinds Google's invitation to hearing on tech 'censorship'

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday rescinded Google’s invitation to a Wednesday hearing on big tech’s alleged “censorship” of conservative voices.

Google was planning to send Max Pappas, Google’s manager of external outreach and public policy partnerships, to the hearing on alleged anti-conservative bias held by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, which is chaired by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz gets backlash for ‘jinxing’ Texas Tech with last-minute selfie The Hill’s Morning Report – The fallout after Trump ousts top DHS officials Lawmakers to grill tech companies over white nationalism MORE (R-Texas).

Pappas, who has never testified before Congress, oversees Google’s conservative outreach.

Pappas was a close aide to Cruz for four years, between 2013 and 2017, before he joined Google. 

A committee staffer with knowledge of the decision to pull back Google’s invitation told The Hill that they felt Pappas was not as “senior” as the representatives Facebook and Twitter are planning to send. 

“The committee negotiated with Google to send a more senior representative from the company, that was analogous to the folks that Facebook and Twitter were sending,” the staffer told The Hill. “Due to time constraints, Google was unable to provide somebody.” 

Google called Pappas “the most qualified subject matter expert.”

“We are happy to testify and have offered the most qualified subject matter expert for the hearing,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We stand ready to continue working with the Committee.”

The committee staffer said the subcommittee is planning to hold a “Google-only” hearing in the the next six weeks, which will focus solely on Google’s alleged censorship of right-wing voices. 

“We are going to host a Google-only subcommittee hearing in the coming weeks to accommodate their logistical needs to get someone on the same level that Facebook and Twitter are sending,” the staffer said.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill that the committee had rejected Pappas. The source emphasized that Pappas has been working on conservative outreach for more than 20 years, and said it is ironic that the committee would reject him, given the hearing is titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse.” 

Facebook at the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing will be represented by Neil Potts, the company’s public policy director, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Twitter will be represented by the company’s director of public policy and philanthropy, Carlos Monje. 

Other representatives at the hearing will include Chuck Konzelman, the writer and director of a movie about an anti-abortion activist “Unplanned,” and Robbie Parker, the father of a victim who was killed in the 2012 shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. 

Cruz, who chairs the subcommittee, has alleged the Silicon Valley giants are biased against conservatives and routinely censor right-wing voices.

All three companies have pushed back against those accusations, arguing there is little evidence to back them up.

-Updated 6:19 p.m.

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