Congress’s Tech Ignorance On Full Display
Should we be worried that members of Congress, who pass tech-related legislation like this year’s Net Neutrality rollback, know amazingly little about how basic internet functions work? Yesterday their digital knowledge gap was on full display during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing with Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai.
At one point in the hearing Rep Zoe Lofgren asked why so many pictures of President Trump appear when she does a Google search for the word idiot. “Right now, if you Google the word ‘idiot’ under images, a picture of Donald Trump comes up. I just did that. How would that happen? How does search work so that would occur?” Pichai explained that search responses aren’t loaded manually, and instead are based on billions of keywords ranked according to more than 200 factors such as relevance and popularity.
In another moment of tech brilliance Rep Steve King pressed Pichai about a personal experience in which his 7-yo granddaughter was playing a game on an iPhone when a crude anti-Steve King ad popped up. It might have been a fair question for Mr. Pichai if Google had made the phone or served the ad in question. Since the device being used in this case was an iPhone all Pichai could do was calmly respond, “Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company.” Oy vey!
These are just a few highlights from the 3.5 hours of testimony. But they underscore just how far off the tech knowledge bell curve many members of Congress are. Right now the average age of House members is 57 and the Senate is 61 (yes, I Googled those stats 🙂 ), so these lawmakers never grew up in the digital age. Sadly, their lack of tech fluency on display yesterday has an effect on the digital legislation they regularly vote on.