U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) blasted Huawei and ZTE over their ties to the Chinese communist government. While speaking at yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on election security, the lawmakers also criticized Google for “cooperating” with the two firms, citing recent reports about the company developing a censored version of its Search engine for China. At the same time, Google decided against renewing its Project Maven contract, ending the collaboration with the U.S. military that was meant to help Washington weaponize artificial intelligence. The Senators related those two developments during the hearing and called them concerning, in addition to blasting Google for declining an invitation to the hearing.
Google repeatedly said its relationship with Huawei and ZTE isn’t any different to its collaboration with other manufacturers of Android devices, whereas it decided to drop Project Maven due to employee activism. While Huawei maintains it isn’t controlled by Beijing, ZTE is majority-owned by a state company. Senator Wyden also questioned Facebook over the fact that it shared user data with Huawei and other Chinese companies as part of a project that the social media giant started winding down in June, though it’s presently unclear when exactly will the initiative be fully discontinued. The lawmaker asked Facebook Chief Operating Officer whether the firm would be prepared to share the findings of its internal audits into its Chinese partners with the committee, with the official responding that she cannot commit to such a move.
The hearing itself mostly retreaded old ground and provided little new insights into the Silicon Valley’s attempts to curb the spread of fake news and combat misinformation campaigns seeking to polarize and mislead the American public. Such coordinated efforts sponsored by foreign entities are still a major issue across all popular social media platforms, though both Twitter and Facebook said their efforts to fight them are working, even though they aren’t expecting the issue to ever go away completely.