U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday his administration would investigate whether Google supports the Chinese government, following accusations that a company official refuted hours later at a Senate hearing.
The president repeated accusations made previously by Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, that Google may be infiltrated by Chinese intelligence agents.
“A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!” the president wrote on Twitter.
Trump later told reporters he would have various agencies, including potentially the Justice Department, “see if there’s any truth to” Thiel’s accusations.
Thiel has called on the FBI and CIA to probe Google on its relations with China, and alleged that the company worked with the Chinese military.
Google said in an email statement: “As we have said before, we do not work with the Chinese military.”
At a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Google’s government affairs official told Senator Josh Hawley that it did little business in China.
“Fundamentally in China we actually do very little today, certainly compared to any other major technology company,” said Karan Bhatia, vice president for government affairs and public policy.
Bhatia rejected accusations that Google has been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence agents or that it has turned a “blind eye” to theft of its code. Its decisions about contracts with the U.S. government have not been based on pressure from China, he said.
He added that Google had “terminated” an effort to develop a search engine that abides by China’s political censorship rules.
However, Bhatia declined to commit to not censoring content in China or to undergoing a third-party audit of its content moderation policies.