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Peter Thiel urges US probe of Google's ‘seemingly treasonous’ acts

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Peter Thiel, one of President Donald Trump's top Silicon Valley supporters and donors, took aim at Google Inc and the high-tech industry over the companies' focus on global markets while brushing aside US interests.

[NEW YORK] Peter Thiel, one of President Donald Trump's top Silicon Valley supporters and donors, took aim at Google Inc and the high-tech industry over the companies' focus on global markets while brushing aside US interests.

He 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 lapse a US defense department contract that gave the military access to its artificial intelligence tools.

Mr Thiel suggested the actions were "seemingly treasonous," as he delivered the opening speech Sunday at the National Conservatism conference in Washington. 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."

Mr Thiel was a featured speaker at the gathering, where many of the attendees are enthusiastic supporters of Mr Trump. Thiel's endorsement of the New York developer at the 2016 Republican National Convention -- and donation of US$1.25 million -- helped give Mr Trump a measure of Silicon Valley credibility at the time.

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Mr Thiel also praised Mr Trump on Sunday for his trade efforts in China, which he termed a "signature achievement" of the administration, along with the White House negotiations with North Korea.

Warren's Call

Mr Thiel didn't endorse calls by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 candidate to replace Trump, and others to break up tech giants like Google and Facebook Inc, where he is a director. He said Ms Warren's success raising money from Google employees was evidence of an underlying problem.

"Silicon Valley," he said, "is getting a little bit of a bad conscience."

Facebook faces a record US$5 billion settlement with the US to end a privacy case involving Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm hired by Mr Trump's campaign that got user data from a researcher who created a personality quiz app on Facebook's social network. Facebook had had a series of mishaps that compromised users' data.

Mr Thiel spoke at the first iteration of a Washington conference conceived as a look at the importance of nationalism. Speeches in coming days will include "The Nationalist Awakening" and "American Greatness and Immigration: the Case for Low and Slow." John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, will also speak.

 

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