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Google, Walmart to testify before Senate on machine learning

A Senate committee plans to question the companies on how algorithms and machine learning on internet platforms influence the public.

A mobile phone shows the Android logo in front of a computer monitor showing the Google logo.

Google is headed to Capitol Hill.

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Google and Walmart have been called to testify before the US Senate on how the use of algorithms and AI by websites can affect internet users.

The hearing, set for Tuesday, May 21, before the commerce committee's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, will "examine how algorithmic decision-making and machine learning on internet platforms influence the public," says a description on the commerce committee's site. "Witnesses will provide insights on ways technology companies use algorithms and machine learning to dictate outcomes."

The subcommittee, chaired by Sen. John Thune, will also look into what policy responses should be made, such as algorithm explanation or transparency.

Google's director of user experience, Maggie Stanphill, and Walmart's former head of behavioral science, Jason Hreha, are slated to testify.

The hearing, called Optimizing for Engagement: Understanding the Use of Persuasive Technology on Internet Platforms, will also feature testimony from an MIT assistant professor of marketing, Dean Eckles, and a co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris.

Walmart didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Google said it had nothing further to add beyond its participation.