Congressional interrogations of tech executives have become so frequent that there now seem to be a set of rituals associated with such hearings. On Tuesday morning, Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared before House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the company’s handling of privacy, data security, controversial viewpoints, and dealings in China. And as has become custom, a familiar cast of protesters came to make their cases against big tech.
InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones showed up in the halls of Congress before the hearing to cause a ruckus about allegations that he is being censored on major platforms. Jones reportedly followed Pichai as he was walking to the hearing room, yelling that the CEO “lied to Congress.” (This is Pichai’s first time testifying, so it’s unclear what Jones was referring to.) Police told Jones to calm down or risk arrest. Jones also made an appearance at a Senate hearing in September to raise similar concerns with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, a stunt that ultimately got him banned from Twitter and Periscope after he berated a CNN reporter who was covering the proceedings.
In September, Jones was accompanied by fellow right-wing trolls Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer. This time around, Jones’ companion was Trump associate Roger Stone.
Another familiar face at Tuesday’s hearing was Ian Madrigal, a consumer protection activist and skilled photobomber who sat behind Pichai in the hearing room conspicuously dressed as the Monopoly Man. Madrigal told the Hill that they were there to protest Google’s monopoly power and lobbying influence over politicians.
Madrigal had worn a “Russian troll” costume for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate hearing in April, and the Monopoly Man monocle and black top hat in March for a hearing with executives at Equifax. Like Jones, Madrigal’s outlandish stunts are sure to produce gawking tweets and news posts, a cheeky diversion for reporters covering knotty tech issues.
While Madrigal typically does not draw the ire of Capitol Police and members of Congress, there’s always a strong chance at least one protester will disrupt the proceedings. During Tuesday’s hearing, House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte called out a protester who entered the courtroom with a poster apparently denouncing Google’s work in China, enjoining him to put it down.
Loomer notably began shouting about alleged censorship during the September hearing with Dorsey and Sandberg, which led to her removal. Capitol Police also confiscated signs from members of Code Pink during the Zuckerberg hearings.