Congressman Vows to Investigate Google Searches of 'America' Movie (Exclusive)
Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a frequent foe of Google, is demanding to know why the giant Internet company was fumbling the search results for Dinesh D'Souza's movie America for nearly three weeks.
Shortly after the movie opened wide on July 2, the filmmakers complained to Google that Internet users looking for showtimes and locations were sometimes misdirected to the wrong movie. On other occasions, an image of the film's poster was incorrect or a description of the movie was wrong.
Rohrabacher tells The Hollywood Reporter that he's so disturbed by Google's behavior he intends on discussing it Wednesday during the House Republican Conference, which is the party caucus for Republicans in the House of Representatives.
"This doesn't deserve to be ignored. We need to verify the statistics in some way, and I will be suggesting the appropriate committee or subcommittee have some kind of hearing on this," Rohrbacher said. "We know there were significant incidences, and that would suggest there was intent behind Google's nonperformance."
America has earned $11.6 million so far and is the follow-up to 2016: Obama's America. Both films favor conservatism, whereas some right-leaning bloggers have for years accused Google of a liberal bias.
While the problem appeared to be fixed as of Monday, the filmmakers say that several of their complaints to Google were initially ignored. On July 7, they fired off a letter asking why the problem persisted and demanded to know if it was caused by technological error or human intervention. On July 14, the filmmakers followed up with another letter, this time from attorney Kelly Crabb of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hamilton that reads, in part: "Google is perhaps the world's leading search site, and these problems could have a serious impact on the market for the film."
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Google acknowledged the problem on July 8 and said that fixing it would "take some time," which confuses Rohrabacher, who is the vice chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the House of Representatives.
"This level of inefficiency on the part of Google is not their norm," he said. "It's been established that if they have a problem, they fix it. This should have been fixed in a matter of hours. These guys are pros."
Rohrabacher has had many run-ins with Google before, accusing it of "aggressively trying to diminish the patent system" and of buddying up to "gangster states like Communist China."
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"I spoke to several people and some said they had problems with the search and some said they didn't. If there was an intent to confuse the public about this movie because of its ideological content, then we're going to find out about it," Rohrabacher said. "This charge has captured the attention of those of us who see that Google has acted arrogantly in a number of areas."
Google did not respond to requests for comment.
"I'm not threatening to shut them down, but shining a spotlight on a corporation that is acting in an abusive way can have as great an impact as legislation or regulation,"Rohrabacher said. " If Google isn't informing the public about movies they disagree with, then that needs to be exposed."