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Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals

Google CEO Sundar Pichai spent most of his three hours of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday dealing with allegations of conservative bias, though he also got pushed on the company's policies on privacy and China.

During an interview with Axios following his interrogation, Pichai discussed his thoughts on whether Google might need to be broken up, pointing to the level of antitrust competition from large global companies and well-funded startups.

"There's a lot of competition amongst big companies. For the first time, I think there is more international competition than ever before, and I think that's going to hold true."
"I do see a lot of innovation happen, too, just coming into this week, reading the coverage. I think there's been IPOs potentially announced or being tracked of Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, Postmates and so on, which to me looks like innovation is, like, well and alive."

Scrutiny of Google: Pichai said he expects tougher scrutiny of his company and other tech giants is "here to stay."

"You want to be thoughtful about how you develop powerful technologies. And I think it’s important that more people than engineers are able to weigh in on these things.”
— Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in an interview with Axios

Basic research: He noted that companies like Google are needed at a time when the U.S. government is investing less in basic research, just as fields like AI and quantum computing are taking off.

  • "There are some advantages of big companies, which is we do invest for the long term in foundational technologies," he said. By contrast with the U.S., Pichai noted that China is investing big in AI and other areas.

Search in China: Pichai echoed his comments before Congress, saying that "right now, we have no plans to launch search in China, but we always feel compelled to explore."

  • Google, he said, is trying to balance the benefit of the information it could provide to Chinese citizens with the company's values around privacy and freedom of expression.
  • Earlier in the day, Pichai confirmed that at one point Google had more than 100 people working on Dragonfly, its project exploring what search could look like in China. That work, he told Axios, could also show up in other areas of Google's business.
  • "There are 100 million Chinese-language speakers outside of China, alone, for whom we can improve search quality," he said. "There are areas like education and health care where we may be able to help."

Go deeper: Pichai says Big Tech scrutiny is "here to stay"

Go deeper

36 mins ago - Health

Meta removes over 600 accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.

First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.