Senate Intel invites Alphabet CEO to testify, rejecting company offer of VP instead

Senate Intel invites Alphabet CEO to testify, rejecting company offer of VP instead
© Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said that it has invited Alphabet CEO Larry Page to testify on foreign influence operations being carried out on social media ahead of November's midterms.

The panel said it had invited executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify, and that only Google has failed to confirm.

The statement is the latest in the back-and-forth between Senate Intelligence and Google, which is owned by Alphabet.

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Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey agreed to appear before the committee in its upcoming Sept. 5 hearing, but Google initially declined to comment on the committee’s invitation to its CEO, Sundar Pichai, before offering its vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker.

The committee declined to accept Walker instead of Pichai and is now inviting Page instead.

"I told them I wasn't accepting the senior vice president," Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrKey House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms Trump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE (R-N.C.) told The Washington Post.

It’s unclear if Page will testify. He has vocal cord paralysis, a rare condition which he has said makes it difficult for him to speak, potentially inhibiting public testimony.

The committee previously heard from top lawyers from each company regarding misinformation campaigns on their platforms, but has pressed for higher-ranking officials. Walker was promoted from Google's general counsel to vice president in July.

A committee spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the panel wants to hear from executives, not employees like Walker it has already spoken with. 

"The purpose of this hearing is to hear from senior leadership making the decisions, not those operationalizing them; as such, the Committee declined to hear from Mr. Walker again,” the spokesperson said. "As Chairman Burr has stated, if Google’s senior leadership chooses not to be part of the solution to this pressing national security threat, that is their decision to make. However, it is the Committee’s hope that they will decide to participate in next week’s hearing."

Facebook, Twitter and Google have all recently revealed new coordinated influence campaigns on their platforms.

In July, Facebook said that it had deleted over 30 fake accounts carrying out misinformation efforts. The company later said in August that it deleted another 600 plus accounts, linked to Iran, Russia and yet to be determined actors.

Twitter and Google followed up with their own announcements that they had deleted batches of accounts linked to Iranian misinformation efforts as well.

As the companies deal with scrutiny from both sides of the political spectrum on digital propaganda, they’re also facing allegations of being biased against conservatives from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE and other high-profile Republicans.

“I think Google and Facebook and Twitter — I think they treat conservatives and Republicans very unfairly,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

His comments follow a series of tweets and comments on Tuesday disparaging the companies.