In a bizarre incident at the Capitol Hill, a panel of Democrats and Republican senators, who were questioning Google CEO Sundar, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at the Section 30 hearing, consistently mispronounced Pichai's name.
During the virtual hearing, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Senator Roger Wicker pronounced his last name as "Pick-Eye" in his opening remarks. Thereafter, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner was the second to mispronounce the Google CEO's name. Senator Amy Klobuchar tried "Pee-Chay" before getting the correct pronunciation on her second attempt.
And then, taking the lead from Chairman Wicker, other senators-Maria Cantwell, Marsha Blackburn, and Mike Lee all reverted to "Pick-Eye".
The senators kept juggling between 'pick-eye' and 'pee-chay.'
Many social media users found this incident disrespectful and even racist.
If it’s not a single syllable and a four letter name (or shorter), the name will be mispronounced. My standard response to anyone who mispronounces my name is to request them to say it the way it spells and they usually get it right. The mispronunciations are hilarious though.— Ro’ela (@OneOnTheOutside) October 28, 2020
Whatever you think of big tech, the egregious mispronouncing of the name of of Alphabet and @Google ceo @sundarpichai, the only immigrant and POC being questioned at this exceedingly stupid Congressional tech hearing (where @tedcruz is being as fatuous as always) is appalling.— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) October 28, 2020
I don’t think it’s controversial to say that if you’re going to hold a hearing with the CEO of Google, you should learn how to say his name. Also, Sundar Pichai is pronounced exactly how you would think it is and I’m sure Google could tell you how to pronounce it.— Scott Edwards (@scotchua) October 28, 2020
Can these senators learn to pronounce Sundar Pichai’s last name correctly— Raymond Etornam (@retornam) October 28, 2020
It is incredibly racist that no one has figured out how to pronounce Sundar Pichai's name. It is literally a phonetic pronunciation. Laziness is also low key racism when done at scale.— Tom Section 230 Nook (@nooktastical) October 28, 2020
The three tech moguls were testified in front of the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday in a hearing that was billed as deliberation over Section 230.
Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act was passed in the US in 1996. Under this law, "interactive computer service" can't be treated as the publisher or speaker of third-party content. This protects websites from lawsuits if a user posts something illegal, although there are exceptions for copyright violations, sex work-related material, and violations of federal criminal law.
Recently, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would strip those protections if online platforms engaged in "editorial decisions". The move came after Twitter added a fact-check warning to one of Trump's tweets.
During the hearing, Republicans scolded the companies for censoring conservative voices. Democrats asked the CEOs what they were doing to suppress violent extremism and election interference on their platforms.