Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Google CEO Sundar Pichai before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sparred with conservative lawmakers who claim the search engine is politically biased while avoiding specific commitments on privacy and company's plans for a censored search engine in China.

Why it matters: Tuesday's three-hour-long hearing was Pichai's first appearance before Congress. Google has largely avoided the congressional scrutiny that hit Facebook and Twitter after its top executives declined a request to testify earlier this year.

Conservatives on the committee got into heated exchanges with Pichai over what they perceive as political bias baked into Google's platforms and suggestions that Google employees tampered with its algorithms to skew products left — claims that haven't been backed up by hard evidence.

  • Pichai said the company controls for potential biases in search results and maintains a neutral platform. But conservatives hammered on the issue. “Perception is reality," said Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.).
  • "I think humans can manipulate the process," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), after Pichai denied any bias and avoided committing to Smith's request that Google allow another independent study of bias on its search product.

The other side: Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) criticized Republicans for their allegations of anti-conservative bias on Google's platforms, calling them a ”right wing conspiracy theory" and a "fantasy dreamed up by some conservatives."

  • "So it’s not some little man sitting behind the curtain trying to figure out what to show? It’s a compilation of what users are generating and trying to sort through that information," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a longtime ally to Silicon Valley.
  • Rep. Ted Lieu, also California Democrat, called the questions of bias a "waste of time."

Our thought bubble: Pichai got out of having to answer more substantive questions from Democrats about other topics such as antitrust and market dominance because so much time was spent on the topic of political bias.

Lawmakers pushed Pichai on a wide range of concerns about Google's business model and future plans.

  • Privacy: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) asked Pichai whether users understand the data collection they're agreeing to on Google's Android platforms. “It’s really important that the average user is able to understand it," Pichai said. "Beyond the terms of service, we actually remind users to do a privacy checkup."
  • Location data: Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) pushed Pichai to answer questions about the company's use of location data, saying "there is a lot of information about where we got and where we are at any moment" that can identify a "person without their consent."
  • Online ads: Pichai defended the company's auction-based ad pricing system, which Goodlatte said could yield different prices for different political candidates.
  • China: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) pressed Pichai on Google's reported work on a censored search engine for Chinese users, a reversal from the company's public decision to leave the market in 2010. "Right now, there are no plans to launch search in China," Pichai said.
  • Surveillance: Pichai dodged a question about whether he would rule out building a "a tool for surveillance and censorship" in China while he is Google's chief executive. "We think it's in our duty to explore possibilities," he said.
  • Competition: Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) asked the Google chief about allegations that the company uses its market dominance against its competitors. “Is that part of your business model?" Cicilline asked. Pichai's response: “Definitely not.”
  • Russian disinformation: Several Democrats pushed Pichai to talk about how Google handles disinformation campaigns of the sort Russia ran in the 2016 election, which included buying ads on its products.

The bottom line: Despite some disagreements with lawmakers, Pichai avoided producing an obvious negative headline out of the hearing and pledged to engage productively on potential legislation on issues like privacy.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
29 mins ago - Health

The U.S. is approaching the vaccine hesitancy "tipping point"

Expand chart
Data: CivicScience; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. will probably run out of adults who are enthusiastic about getting vaccinated within the next two to four weeks, according to a KFF analysis published yesterday.

Between the lines: Vaccine hesitancy is rapidly approaching as our main impediment to herd immunity.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
52 mins ago - Energy & Environment

The finance sector links arms on climate

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A big, UN-backed umbrella group of banks, asset managers, investors and insurers launched Wednesday to boost private clean tech finance and press polluting industries that use their services to cut emissions.

Why it matters: The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) is the broadest financial industry effort yet on climate change.

Scoop: Chris Christie friends believe he's running in 2024

Chris Christie at the White House in 2020. Photo: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seriously considering running for president in 2024, three people familiar with his thinking tell Axios.

Driving the news: While Christie isn't saying anything publicly about his thinking — besides telling radio host Hugh Hewitt he's not ruling it out — people close to him have an early sense of the rationale and outlines of a potential candidacy.