Watchdog Calls for Criminal Investigation of Google VP for Potentially Lying to Congress about Company Blacklists
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 21, 2019
Contact: Bryan Dewan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, asked the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, to refer Karan Bhatia, Vice President for Government Affairs & Public Policy at Google, to the U.S. Department of Justice for investigation into whether Mr. Bhatia may have provided false testimony to the committee during a hearing concerning Google’s manipulation of search results.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Mr. Bhatia told the U.S. Senate in sworn testimony that Google does not maintain blacklists or whitelists that influence its search results, but recent news reports indicate Google uses blacklists to filter its search results. The Senate should immediately investigate this matter and refer Mr. Bhatia to the Department of Justice for a full investigation.”
On July 16, 2019, the Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing entitled, “Google and Censorship through Search Engines.” Mr. Bhatia testified at the hearing on behalf of his employer, Google. During the hearing, Sen. Marsha Blackburn asked Mr. Bhatia about whether Google maintains blacklists for its search engine, specifically targeting political groups. Mr. Bhatia stated unequivocally that Google does not use blacklists, responding, “No, ma’am, we don’t use blacklists, whitelists to influence our search results.”
When Sen. Blackburn pressed him on the issue, Mr. Bhatia clearly responded, “[Google does] not utilize blacklists or whitelists in our search results to favor political outcomes. It’s not, it doesn’t happen.”
Furthermore, after the hearing, in response to a question about blacklists submitted by Sen. Ted Cruz, Mr. Bhatia did not clarify his answer about Google’s use of blacklists. Instead, Mr. Bhatia told the committee that Google only removes search results in “narrow circumstances,” particularly those in which search results portray certain criminal conduct or “exhibit deceptive or manipulative behavior designed to deceive users or game our Search algorithms.”
Nevertheless, on November 15, 2019, The Wall Street Journal published a major report about Google’s manipulation of search results, revealing Google’s extensive use of blacklists, despite the company’s public denials of their existence.
In response to the Journal’s findings, Google spokeswoman Lara Levin attempted to defend Mr. Bhatia’s statements, saying his comments were specifically discussing blacklists related to politics, which she insisted to the Journal that Google does not maintain.
Federal law makes it a crime, punishable by up to five years imprisonment, to make a materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation in response to government investigations, including those of congressional committees. In light of the evidence, it appears Mr. Bhatia may have deliberately misled the subcommittee, which warrants a full investigation by the subcommittee.
Mr. Stevens continued, “The Senate should demand a full accounting of Google’s use of blacklists in order to help uncover the truth about Mr. Bhatia’s testimony. If Google does indeed use blacklists and one of its employees presented false testimony to Congress, the company needs to be held accountable.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.