They’re such diffident sorts at Google.
They shy away from conflict and controversy, preferring to creep around and follow your every step, word, and breath.
They don’t give a good show. They don’t even like to talk much, if they can help it.
Perhaps, that’s why, at tomorrow’s Senate hearing about Russian interference in the 2016 Election, Google intends to send one of its lawyers, rather than, say, CEO Sundar Pichai.
This is a stark contrast to Facebook and Twitter. The latter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, will be there to offer his contorted logic, while the former’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, will be there to, perhaps, sandbag eloquently.
Why would Google send a lawyer?
Well, lawyers love to talk almost as much as they love to say nothing at all definitive while they’re talking.
But it’s a curious position for Google to take.
Here is a company that used to claim it would never do evil, a company that prides itself on being the paragon of objectivity.
Yet it’s scared of sending its CEO to talk objectively to his intellectual inferiors.
Senators generally grasp technology like they grasp truth. They hold it at arm’s length and wonder why people think it’s so important.
Attending the hearing would give Pichai a fine platform upon which to patiently explain how Google works and what it’s limitations actually are.
After all, the company’s newly appointed search liaison, Danny Sullivan, recently explained to CNBC that one thing Google isn’t is a “truth engine.”
I suspect many senators think it is. Or, at least, that many of their constituents think it is.
Pichai could surely enlighten the committee about the nuances of all this. He could remind the members that our own critical faculties are still important when we search for news.
He might even make a joke about how the critical faculties of many senators have been sorely lacking in the last two years.
I suppose, though, that Google only makes jokes on April Fool’s.
The rest of the time it hopes that Facebook and Twitter remain the poster children for the vile, the bile, and the Russian guile, while Google swallows ever more information and trades it for ever more advertising dollars.
I contacted Google to ask whether it had experienced a change of heart about the committee and will update, should I hear.
After all, even Democrats aren’t happy with the company. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner muttered to CNBC: “Chances are there’s going to be an empty chair there. And I think there will be a lot more questions raised that could have been actually dealt with if they sent a senior decision-maker and not simply their counsel.”
Which leads one to a sad conclusion: Google is afraid of the truth.
Also: How fact-checking could thwart phishing attacks TechRepublic
It’s afraid that Pichai might inadvertently be caught in some spirited questioning that would require a perfectly honest answer. Engineers have a tendency to give perfectly honest answers, sometimes at the perfectly wrong times.
Or, perhaps, it’s afraid that Pichai might perform a little like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a previous Senate hearing in April, when he appeared not to know how his site worked.
Instead, then, the company wants to send a lawyer.
Because to a lawyer, the perfect result is that no difficult truths come out at all.
Previous and related coverage:
The president believes Google is against him and fixes its search results. Can this be?
Study finds Google is tracking Android device location even when the phone is stationary.
A lawsuit accuses Google of tracking a man against his wishes and disguising what ‘location history off’ means.
Google has now clarified what turning off the Location History setting really means.
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