Sen. Hawley Calls on Google to Address China Partnership

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WASHINGTON  Today, Senator Josh Hawley sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking him to address the company’s refusal to work with the United States Department of Defense while partnering with China on artificial intelligence initiatives.

The letter was sent following Google’s meeting with President Trump to discuss the company’s decision to not work with the Department of Defense while partnering with China.

The meeting with President Trump was sparked by an exchange Senator Hawley had earlier this month at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with the Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in which the two defense leaders said that Google’s work in China was providing “direct benefit” to the Chinese military. 

In his letter, Senator Hawley writes, I understand that today you have met with General Dunford and the President of the United States to address these concerns. Now meet with the American people by addressing publicly the work your company does in China, the benefits it may provide to the Chinese government and military, and your reluctance to partner or aid the Armed Forces of the United States.

The full letter can be found below.

March 28, 2019

Mr. Sundar Pichai

Chief Executive Officer

Google

1600 Ampitheater Parkway

Mountain View, CA 94043

Dear Mr. Pichai,

            I have been deeply troubled by the testimony of our national defense leadership regarding Google’s unwillingness to partner with the U.S. Armed Forces, even while pursuing lucrative projects in China that directly or indirectly benefit the repressive Chinese government.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 14, both Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford expressed deep concern about Google’s actions.

In response to my questions, Chairman Dunford testified that Google’s work with Chinese companies in China may directly threaten the United States. As General Dunford further elaborated at an event at the Atlantic Council on March 21: “Typically if a company does business in China, they are automatically going to be required to have a cell of the Communist party in that company and that is going to lead to that intellectual property from that company finding its way to the Chinese military.”[1] I suspect most Americans would find it mind-boggling that an American company would partner with our adversary in this way. 

According to reports, the work Google is doing with China not only includes development of artificial intelligence technology that may possibly be used by Chinese military and intelligence services to exploit Americans’ data and privacy, but also the introduction of platforms that advance a value system and modes of behavior fundamentally at odds with our own, such as the censor-friendly search engine Project Dragonfly.

That Google persists in seeking partnerships in China including building an artificial intelligence facility in Beijing suggests a long-term commitment by the company to have China as a partner.  Indeed, in October 2018 you described China as “a wonderful, innovative market” and said that “given how important the market is and how many users there are, we feel obliged to think hard about this problem and take a longer-term view.”[2] And yet, a letter from 1,400 of your employees revealed that Google employees “do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.”[3]

It is worth asking what Google stands to gain from partnering with a country that routinely violates basic human liberties, including maintaining detention facilities for nearly a million Uyghur Muslims, banning freedom of speech and the press, and repressing its Christian, Tibetan Buddhist and other religious communities. Is the technology Google develops, ostensibly for the welfare of consumers, being used by the Chinese government to further perpetuate these human rights violations?

            I understand that today you have met with General Dunford and the President of the United States to address these concerns. Now meet with the American people by addressing publicly the work your company does in China, the benefits it may provide to the Chinese government and military, and your reluctance to partner or aid the Armed Forces of the United States.     

                                                Sincerely,

                                                Josh D. Hawley

                                                U.S. Senator

###


[1] “US Military Strategy and Great Power Competition with Gen Joseph Dunford,” The Atlantic Council, March 21, 2019.

[2] Nitasha Tiku, “Google’s CEO says tests of censored Chinese search engine turned out great,” Wired, October 15, 2018.

[3] Kate Conger, Daisuke Wakabayashi, “Google employees protest secret work on censored search engine in China,” New York Times, August 16, 2018.

This is an edited press release.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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