Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and Peter Thiel in Dec. 2016 (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel used an appearance at the National Conservatism Conference to accuse Google of treason and suggest that the firm is aiding the Chinese military.
The proclamation caught the attention of President Trump, who vowed on Twitter to “take a look.”
Thiel took issue with Google’s decision not to work with the US military on certain projects while exploring a censored version of its search engine for China.
In April 2018, amid an employee backlash, Google canceled its ongoing participation in Project Maven, a Pentagon effort to use AI to analyze footage from aerial drones. Google later vowed to never develop AI technologies that can be used for war or surveillance. Later that year, it faced another employee backlash when it was revealed Google was working on a censored search engine for China, dubbed Project Dragonfly.
Working with the Chinese instead of the US, according to Thiel, is a “seemingly treasonous decision,” and the FBI and CIA should get involved “in a not excessively gentle manner,” he said, according to Axios.
In a statement, Google said: “As we have said before, we do not work with the Chinese military.”
Thiel, however, said AI developed by Google’s Deepmind should be regarded as a potential “military weapon,” Bloomberg reported. Thiel was an original investor in Deepmind, which Google acquired in 2014.
Today, President Trump tweeted that Thiel is a “great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone.” He pledged that the “Trump Administration will take a look!” at the Google accusations, without elaborating. Thiel, the co-founder of shadowy data-mining firm Palantir and a member of Facebook’s board of directors, was the only prominent Silicon Valley figure to back Trump publicly in 2016, donating $1.25 million to his campaign and super PACs.
Later, during an appearance at the White House, Trump said he would “recommend” that “various” US agencies, “including perhaps our attorney general…maybe take a look” at Google. “We’ll all look at that.”
Trump lavished praise on Thiel, calling him a “brilliant young man” and noting his support for the President during the 2016 campaign. “He made a very strong charge,” Trump said of Thiel’s speech, but Trump did not say whether US intelligence officials have similar concerns.