President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he would “take a look” at Google after billionaire investor Peter Thiel claimed without evidence that the tech giant may have been infiltrated by the Chinese government.
Trump’s announcement came via tweet and appears to have been inspired by a “Fox & Friends” news clip of Thiel’s Monday night interview with opinion host Tucker Carlson, which was based largely on speculation.
“A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone,” the president wrote in praise of Thiel. “The Trump Administration will take a look!”
“Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government.” @foxandfriends A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2019
Thiel initially made the remarks on Sunday at the National Conservatism Conference in, Washington, D.C., where he accused the company of a “seemingly treasonous decision” in choosing “to work with the Chinese military and not with the U.S. military,” Axios reported. He then called for the CIA and the FBI to address the matter.
Google denied Thiel’s allegation in a statement to HuffPost on Tuesday.
“As we have said before, we do not work with the Chinese military,” a company spokesperson said. “We are working with the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, in many areas including cybersecurity, recruiting and healthcare.”
Thiel’s criticism appears to refer to Google’s 2018 decision not to renew its contract with the Department of Defense, which allowed the agency to review drone footage with the company’s artificial intelligence tools. The same year, Google faced backlash for working on “Dragonfly,” a project to create a censored search engine for China. However, in December, CEO Sundar Pichai announced there were no plans to launch it.
Though there is no evidence that Chinese intelligence agencies have influenced Google’s business choices, Thiel, a Facebook board member, doubled down on his skepticism while speaking to Carlson.
The additional scrutiny came in a series of questions Thiel said he has for Pichai.
“How many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated Google?” he asked. “Have the Chinese, in particular, infiltrated, and why are you working with communist China, not the U.S? What is the reason you’re doing that?”
On Tuesday, the network aired a brief cut of the interview, which Trump apparently watched.
Here’s the Fox & Friends newsbrief that spurred President Trump to promise to look into Peter Thiel’s baseless claim that Google committed treason. pic.twitter.com/CSgQlwNEdf
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) July 16, 2019
No formal announcement has been made to investigate Google, and Trump’s tweet contained no details on the action he is supposedly planning to take.
The White House offered no additional comment when asked about the president’s plans.
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