On Tuesday morning, Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared on Capitol Hill for the first time to testify before Congress about a number of controversies surrounding the search giant over the past year, from data collection to political biases to its rumored China relaunch.
But for the tens of thousands of people who were watching the hearing online via live stream, Pichai’s carefully prepared testimony was disturbed by a unusually dressed man in the background who appeared to be the “Rich Uncle Pennybags” from the board game Monopoly.
The “Monopoly Man” was seated three rows behind Pichai and occasionally looked at the camera with cartoonish expressions.
And his mustache got bigger and bigger as the hearing progressed.
The “Monopoly Man” was identified as Ian Madrigal on Twitter. Madrigal, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, is an activist who received medial attention last year when they appeared in the same “Monopoly Man” costume at the U.S. Senate hearing of Equifax CEO Richard Smith regarding Equifax’s massive data breach.
“Google spent $18 million lobbying politicians in 2017—more than any other company,” Madrigal said in a statement shared on Twitter before Tuesday’s hearing. “In return, Congress has abandoned its oversight role and allowed Google to wield monopoly power over every person who uses the internet.”
“We have no say in how Google uses even our most personal data, and the only way to opt out is to boycott the internet itself,” Madrigal added. “We can’t rely on tech giants to self-regulate. It is past time for Congress to step in and do its job.”
The congressional hearing on Tuesday was open to the public. And Madrigal wasn’t the only activist in the audience. In the hallway outside of the hearing, a group of attendees held up banners of the Google logo altered into China’s national flag and handcuffs in protest of Google’s alleged launch of a censored search engine in China.