President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced on Twitter that his administration will look into Google’s ties with China following statements made last weekend by billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel.
Trump wrote in a tweet: “Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government. ... A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!”
Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference, Thiel said the FBI and CIA need to investigate Google to see whether the company has been “infiltrated by Chinese intelligence. He urged the U.S. government to ask Google three questions that might provide insight into the matter.
On Monday, Palantir co-founder and Thiel colleague Joe Lonsdale agreed. Despite Lonsdale’s antidotes, neither presented clear evidence of treason.
The issue draws attention to the Trump administration’s trade dispute with China, scrutiny regarding national-security risks from companies like Huawei Technologies, and Google’s unwillingness last year to seek renewal of a cloud-computing contract with the Pentagon.
Google executives also said they would not allow its artificial-intelligence products to be used in U.S. military weaponry.
Thiel, a Facebook board member and early investor, called Google a monopoly and has financially backed several Republican politicians at the state and federal level, including Trump. All have expressed concerns about Google’s influence in search and advertising businesses.
One notion that was not discussed, as Lonsdale stated on Monday, is the Chinese government’s influence on companies doing business in China. Most U.S. companies must have a sponsor in order to do business in China.
At risk is intellectual property, from copyright to design, because the rules of business in China are different than the U.S.
And it has been that way for the U.S. since the late 1990s, when original equipment manufacturers began building facilities in the country to support the U.S. electronics industry.