Apr 9, 2019

Senate committee rejects Google witness for hearing on censorship

Sen. Ted Cruz. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee has said it won't accept the witness Google offered for a Wednesday subcommittee hearing on free speech online, according to multiple sources.

Why it matters: Facebook and Twitter will be represented at the hearing, chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), but Google may not be there to respond to expected criticism that it is biased against conservatives.

Details:

  • A source familiar with the matter said that Google had offered to send Max Pappas, a staffer focused on conservative outreach with a long career in right-wing politics, to the hearing, entitled "Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse." (His expected attendance was reported on Tuesday morning.)
  • But the committee had rejected him as a witness, according to the source and Will Dempster, the spokesperson for Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), the top Democrat on the subcommittee hosting the hearing. Dempster said that while the committee's Republican majority rejected Pappas, she would have "welcomed" his testimony.
  • Facebook and Twitter are both sending witnesses to the hearing.

Pappas is himself a former Cruz staffer and before that held positions at different conservative groups.

What they're saying: "The committee negotiated with Google to send a more senior representative from Google comparable to the representatives that Facebook and Twitter committed to send," said a committee staffer. "Google was unable to provide someone in time so the subcommittee will be hosting a hearing with Google only in the coming weeks."

  • Both Facebook and Twitter's witnesses have "director" in their title. Pappas's LinkedIn says his job title changed this month from "Manager, External Outreach and Public Policy Partnerships" to "Acting Director, Political & Stakeholder Outreach."

A Google spokesperson said in a statement, "We are happy to testify and have offered the most qualified subject matter expert for the hearing. We stand ready to continue working with the Committee."

The big picture: Cruz and others have long alleged that major web platforms are biased against conservatives, with a regular focus on Google and its subsidiary YouTube.

  • Research and reporting has not proven an active, systemic effort on the part of the platforms to dampen the reach of conservative voices, despite the persistent allegations.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment from Sen. Mazie Hirono's office.

Go deeper

Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 hours ago - Health

California coronavirus: Latest case has no recent history of international travel

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new case of the novel coronavirus in California was announced on Friday after Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that 33 people had tested positive for the virus, noting the risk to the public remains low.

What's new: An adult woman with chronic health conditions in Santa Clara County who "did not recently travel overseas" or come into contact with anyone known to be ill was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus on Friday by CDC and California Department of Public Health officials.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 hours ago - Health