Cruz to hold hearing on Google's alleged anti-conservative bias next week

Cruz to hold hearing on Google's alleged anti-conservative bias next week
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzState Department's top arms control official leaving Sanders NASA plan is definitely Earth first Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R-Texas) will hold a hearing next week focused entirely on allegations that Google routinely censors conservative voices, a Cruz spokesperson confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday.

For months, Cruz has been promising to hold a hearing centered on Google, which will come on the heels of a similar hearing featuring representatives from Twitter and Facebook.

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Cruz's Senate Judiciary subcommittee rescinded Google's invitation from that hearing on alleged anti-conservative bias because Cruz claimed the official the company offered was not senior enough. Now, Google will face a grilling from the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, which Cruz chairs.

The subcommittee formally announced the hearing, titled "Google and Censorship through Search Engines," on Tuesday night. It will take place on July 16.

Karan Bhatia, Google's vice president of public policy and a former senior official in the Bush administration, will be testifying on Google's behalf at the hearing.

Bhatia was the deputy U.S. Trade Representative under former President George W. Bush. He worked in the Departments of Transportation and Commerce, as well as General Electric, before joining Google last year.

The committee's ranking member, Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocratic senators introduce bill to block Trump 'public charge' rule Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator MORE (D-Hawaii), did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment on the hearing.

Dennis Prager, a conservative commentator who co-founded the right-leaning organization PragerU, is set to testify at the hearing, according to an email from PragerU.

"Next Tuesday, PragerU's cofounder Dennis Prager will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, chaired by Senator Ted Cruz," an email from by PragerU's public relations firm reads. "His testimony is expected to highlight how online media targets conservatives like Prager University and seeks to remove their voices from the public square."

Cruz's office did not immediately respond to follow-up questions on the full list of witnesses. 
 
Google and other top tech companies have pushed back aggressively against claims from top Republicans — including President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE — that their platforms are biased against conservatives.
 
Representatives with the companies have testified multiple times before Congress about those allegations, insisting they do not consider political affiliation in their decisions to recommend content to users or remove posts that violate their terms of use.
 
Cruz, who has crusaded on his belief that the companies are biased against the right for over a year, has conceded that most of the evidence is anecdotal. But he says the companies could clear their names if they released more comprehensive information on how they decide which posts to take down and which accounts to suspend. 
 
Social media experts have warned there is little substantive evidence to back up claims of anti-conservative bias.

The Google-focused hearing is largely a broadside against the company after Google planned to send Max Pappas, the company's head of conservative outreach, to Cruz's previous hearing on the topic.

Google was planning to send Pappas, a former close aide to Cruz, to the April hearing. But a staffer told The Hill that Cruz felt Pappas was not the best person to speak to the issue. 

"We are going to host a Google-only subcommittee hearing ... to accommodate their logistical needs to get someone on the same level that Facebook and Twitter are sending," the staffer said at the time.

Updated 8:28 p.m.