During a talk Sunday at the National Conservatism conference in Washington, Peter Thiel, perhaps the most visible tech entrepreneur to back President Donald Trump, earning the eternal enmity of his fellow Silicon Valley denizens (and necessitating a move to LA), had some harsh words for his one-time friends.
The billionaire investor singled out Google for agreeing to work closely with China, trying to get its search engine back into the Chinese market, while deciding to let a US defense department contract that gave the military access to its artificial intelligence tools lapse.
These actions by Google, Thiel suggested, were "seemingly treasonous," he said during the opening of his speech. Even going so far as to question whether Google parent Alphabet's AI research program had been "infiltrated" by foreign intelligence.
He asked whether Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s AI research program or senior management had been “infiltrated” by foreign intelligence agencies. "These questions need to be asked by the FBI and the CIA," Thiel said, "And I’d like them to be asked in a not excessively gentle manner."
This wouldn't be the first time suspicions of treasonous activity have dogged American tech companies. Who could forget CFUS's recent decision to force a Chinese company to sell its entire ownership in Grindr for security reeasows.
On a more positive note, Thiel praised Trump on Sunday for his efforts to win a trade deal with China, which he termed a "signature achievement" of the administration, along with the detente with North Korea.
By the standards of the event, Thiel was more mild than many of the tech bashers in attendance - unsurprisingly, Thiel doesn't support the breakup of big tech companies, given that he still sits on Facebook's board.
Instead, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican who’s proposed reforming Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which frees tech companies from responsibility for any content posted on their sites.
"I think Facebook and Google are a good examples of what is it we’re talking about," Hazony said in an interview on Sunday. "These are spectacularly impressive entrepreneurs, but you need to ask the question if Americans are better off with [Google and Facebook] single-handedly determining what should be censored?"
The event wasn't focused on tech, but coming so soon after President Trump's social media summit, it's hardly surprising that the abuse of social media would factor heavily.