There’s little debate that election interference on-line is an existential risk to democracy. It performed a task within the US presidential election two years in the past, might have had some bearing over Britain’s choice to go away the EU, and is a matter governments are wrestling with the world over.
It’s why the highest executives from Fb, Twitter, and Google have been summoned by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, the place they’ve been requested to present proof on international affect operations on their platforms forward of the US midterms in November.
Sheryl Sandberg will probably be representing for Fb, following a PR blitz through which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has declared election meddling an “arms race” between good and evil. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey can even be within the firing line after a busy few weeks justifying his choice to permit conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to hold on tweeting.
Google, nonetheless, will possible be represented by an empty chair.
Each CEO Sundar Pichai and his boss, Alphabet CEO Larry Web page, had been reportedly invited to present proof, however each declined. As an alternative, Google put ahead its prime lawyer, Kent Walker — a proposal which the Senate Intelligence Committee has declined.
“Likelihood is there’s going to be an empty chair there,” the committee’s vice chair, Senator Mark Warner, instructed CNBC final week. “I feel there will probably be much more questions raised that would have been truly handled in the event that they despatched a senior decision-maker and never merely their counsel.”
Enterprise Insider has contacted Google for remark. In an announcement to different media, the corporate mentioned Walker will probably be in Washington to “ship written testimony, temporary members of Congress on our work, and reply any questions they’ve.”
The empty chair system is essentially an train in political theatre, but it surely’s not with out precedent. For instance, former White Home adviser Karl Rove failed to indicate up at a Judiciary Committee listening to in 2008, with an empty chair and a placard along with his title showing in his place. The identical yr, the previous Undersecretary of Protection for Coverage Douglas Feith was additionally empty-chaired at a listening to.
However the stakes have not often been so excessive, making Google’s absence all of the extra pronounced.
And it isn’t simply the difficulty of election interference that may profit from transparency from Google. The corporate is mired in a mess of rumbling scandals, from allegations of liberal bias and considerations over storing consumer location information, to huge questions over its reported plans to launch a censored search engine in China.
The place solutions ought to be forthcoming, it will likely be an inanimate piece of furnishings that speaks loudest.