Two weeks ago, Google had a big day in Washington. President Biden signed an executive order to create artificial intelligence safeguards that could affect Google’s most pressing projects, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken gave the company an award for its work in aiding Ukrainian refugees and promoting women’s economic security.
Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, had spent much of the day on a witness stand at a federal courthouse about two miles from the White House, defending his company from claims that it crushed rivals in the search and online advertising markets.
On Tuesday, Mr. Pichai is expected to testify again, this time in San Francisco, to confront claims brought by the video game company Epic Games that his company broke the law, wielding monopolistic power over app developers on Android’s Google Play Store.
Mr. Pichai over the last month has become the face of Google’s antitrust court fights on both sides of the country. And his visits to the witness stand underscore the growing importance for Big Tech leaders to be sharp witnesses for their companies, whether in an antitrust trial or in hearings on Capitol Hill.
Testifying under oath is a task that many tech chief executives might be asked to do in the coming years, with Amazon, Meta and others facing their own antitrust court fights. It is not a task at which many executives have excelled.
Though he was never called to the witness stand to testify, Bill Gates, who was chief executive of Microsoft in the last big technology antitrust case brought by the Justice Department more than two decades ago, came across as combative and evasive in depositions.
Over the last few years, executives including Mark Zuckerberg and OpenAI’s Sam Altman (and, of course, Mr. Pichai) have been asked to testify before Congress for various reasons, with varying degrees of success. Mr. Zuckerberg has at times exasperated lawmakers with vague responses, while Mr. Altman appeared to charm senators in a hearing this year.
The main duty on the witness stand for Mr. Pichai — a low-key and detail-focused executive — has been to keep the temperature low under questioning and keep to the central point of Google’s antitrust defense: that it is an innovative company that has maintained its leadership through innovation and hard work instead of illegal monopolistic behavior.
The Justice Department…