On June 25 2019, during a US Senate Committee hearing, Texas Senator Ted Cruz questioned Ms. Maggie Stanphill, Director of Google User Experience over the findings of Project Veritas’ recent investigative report featuring insider testimony, undercover video of a Google executive, and leaked internal documents. Said Senator Cruz:
“Well I think these, these documents raise very serious questions about political bias.”
You can watch a video clip of the hearing here:
Below is a partial transcript of the exchange between Senator Cruz and Ms. Stanphill.
CRUZ: Are you familiar with the report that was released yesterday from Veritas, that included a whistleblower from within Google that included videos from a senior executive at Google, and it included documents that are reportedly internal powerpoint documents from google.
GOOGLE: Yes I heard about that report in news.
CRUZ: Have you seen the report?
GOOGLE: No I did not.
CRUZ: So you didn’t review the report to prepare fr this meeting?
GOOGLE: It’s been a busy day and I have a day job which is Digital Well-being at Google so I’m trying to make sure…
CRUZ: Well I’m sorry that this meeting is impinging on your day job.
GOOGLE: It’s a great opportunity thank you.
CRUZ: One of the things in that report and I would recommend people interested in political bias at Google watch the entire report and judge for themselves, there’s a video from a woman Jen Gennai, it’s a secret video that was recorded, Jen Gennai as I understand is the head of responsible innovation for google. Are you familiar with Miss Gennai?
GOOGLE: I work in user experience and I believe that AI group is somebody is somebody that works on AI principles. But it’s a big company and I don’t work directly with Jen.
CRUZ: Do you know her or no?
GOOGLE: I do not know Jen.
CRUZ: As I understand that she is shown in the video saying, and this is a quote, “Elizabeth warren is saying that we should break up google. And like I love her, but she is very misguided. Like that will not make it better. It will make it worse. Because all these smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do, will be charged with preventing the next trump situation. It’s like a small company cannot do that.” Do you think its Google’s job to quote, “prevent the next trump situation?”
GOOGLE: Thank you senator. I don’t agree with that. No sir.
CRUZ: So a different individual, a whistleblower identified simply as an insider at Google with knowledge of the algorithm, was quoted on the same report as saying, google is quote “bent on never letting someone like Donald Trump come to power again.” You think its google’s job to make sure quote “somebody like Donald Trump never comes to power again?”
GOOGLE: No sir I don’t think that is Google’s job and we build for everyone including every single religious belief, every single demographic, every single region, and certain every single political affiliation.
CRUZ: Well I have to say that certainly doesn’t appear to be the case. Of the senior executives at Google, do you know a single one that voted for Donald Trump?
GOOGLE: Thank you senator. I’m a user experience director and I work on google digital well-being, I can tell you we have diverse use…
CRUZ: Did you know of anyone that voted for Trump.
GOOGLE: I definitely know of people that voted for Trump.
CRUZ: Of the senior executives at Google.
GOOGLE: I don’t talk politics with my workmates.
CRUZ: Is that a no?
GOOGLE: Sorry is that a no to what?
CRUZ: DO you know any senior executives, even a single senior executive at the company that voted for Donald Trump?
GOOGLE: as the digital well-being expert I don’t think this is in my purview to comment… I definitely don’t know…
CRUZ: Let’s talk about one of the PowerPoints that was leaked. The Veritas report has Google internally saying “I propose we make machine learning intentionally human centered and intervene for fairness.” Is this document accurate?
GOOGLE: Thank you sir, I don’t know about this document so I don’t know.
CRUZ: Okay I’m going to ask you to respond to the committee in writing afterwards as to whether this PowerPoint and the other documents are included in the veritas report, whether those are accurate. And I recognize that your lawyers may want to write explanation, you’re welcome to write all the explanation that you want but I also want a simple clear answer is this an accurate document that was generated by google. Do you agree with the sentiment expressed in this document?
GOOGLE: No sir I do not.
CRUZ: Going to read you another, also in this report, it indicates that Google according this whistleblower, deliberately makes recommendations if someone is searching for conservative commentators, deliberately shifts the recommendations so instead of recommending other conservative commentators it recommends organizations like CNN or MSNBC or left leaning political outlets. Is that occurring?
GOOGLE: Thank you sir, I can’t comment I can’t comment on search algorithms or recommendations given my purview as Digital Well-being lead. I can take that back to my team though.
CRUZ: So is it part of Digital Well-being for search recommendations to reflect the where user wants to go than deliberately shifting where they want to go?
GOOGLE: As a user experience professional, we focus on delivering on user goals. So we try to get out of the way and on the task at hand.
CRUZ: So a final question, one of these documents that was leaked explains what Google is doing and it has a series of stamps, training data, collected and classified, algorithms are programmed, media are filtered ranked and aggregated, and that ends with, people, parenthesis, like us, are programmed. Does Google view its job as programming people with search results?
GOOGLE: Thank you senator. I can’t speak for the whole entire company, but I can tell you that we make sure that we put our users first in design.
CRUZ: Well I think these questions, these documents raise very serious questions about political bias.