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Trump will 'take a look' at investigating Google for treason

Hannah Boland
Donald Trump met with Google's Sundar Pichai earlier this year to discuss whether the company had been helping China's armed forces. - AP

President Donald Trump has said he will "take a look" at claims that Google has committed treason and has been working closely with the Chinese government.

Trump did not give any details about whether an official probe would be launched, instead saying officials would be investigating the claims in a post on Twitter this morning.

He was responding to comments made by billionaire investor, and one of his top Silicon Valley supporters, Peter Thiel on Sunday, which questioned whether Google's senior management team had been "thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence".

Mr Thiel, the former chief executive of PayPal, had been speaking at the National Conservatism conference in Washington, to Republican supporters. 

He had likened work being done by Google's artificial intelligence business DeepMind to a US government project to develop nuclear weapons in the late Thirties and early Forties titled the Manhattan Project, asking, "how many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated your Manhattan Project for AI?"

"Is it because they consider themselves to be so thoroughly infiltrated that they have engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military?" he asked. 

Writing on Twitter earlier today, Trump had said Mr Thiel believed Google should be investigated for treason, and that he was a "great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone".   

Just months earlier, Trump met with Google's boss Sundar Pichai to discuss whether the company had been helping China's armed forces.

After the meeting, the president had tweeted that Google was "totally committed" to the US military. "Just met with Sundar Pichai, President of Google, who is obviously doing quite well. He stated strongly that he is totally committed to the US military, not the Chinese military," he said.

It is thought Mr Thiel's comments relate to Google's plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, internally referred to as project Dragonfly.

This project is thought to have been paused due to pressure from staff, but work on it had been underway for a while. Details of the plans were first revealed in leaked documents, obtained by The Intercept, last year, and included things such as potentially blocking access to websites such as BBC News. 

A spokesman for Google said: "As we have said before, we do not work with the Chinese military."