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We are Google employees – Google must drop Dragonfly (medium.com)
1652 points by daveowei 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 840 comments





Pretty bold. A lot of people are saying this wont work, but speaking from my own experience, you'd be surprised what companies are amicable to when it comes to business.

Im an engine mechanic by trade, and our shops handle bids for cash strapped local governments that outsource their motor pool maintenance. We do things like fire trucks and police cars, but we were working on a new regional idea as a "service center" for municipalities that purchased MRAP combat vehicles for their police departments. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MRAP

We all, especially the veterans I work with, hated this idea. MRAP's are for combat, not police work, and have a dangerous propensity to roll over in city streets or escalate already violent situations. 14 of us sent a signed letter to the owner and senior management detailing our major concerns and heard nothing back for about a month. Then out of the blue we got a call for a meeting with 3-4 very senior managers at a local irish bar.

They paid for dinner and tried to explain how the business would be extremely lucrative. we would all see major bonuses, we could hire more workers, and grow the business faster than just large truck repair. It took 3 very emotional hours, but we eventually talked down a handful of people from making a very wrong decision.

for a week after, we were all sort of stunned that it actually worked at all. Tire cages meant for MRAP tires were cut up and turned into random parts holders, or as new hangers for air lines...one even replaced our mailbox post.


You deserve massive credit for striking a blow against this madness. A great example of how working people have more power than they think if they're willing to risk dollars and cents for matters of right and wrong.

I say that fully realizing that not everyone is in the financial position where they can risk a fight with their employer. You can't expect everyone to be Ghandi.


> A great example of how working people have more power than they think if they're willing to risk dollars and cents for matters of right and wrong.

I believe this is key. If more folks at more organizations were brave like this and willing to take the risk, a good chunk of the problems our civilization is facing might be greatly improved.


Worker's unions helped win the majority of our rights in modern democracies. I wish this fact was more widely appreciated.

> Worker's unions helped win the majority of our rights in modern democracies. I wish this fact was more widely appreciated.

The problem with modern unions, particularly in tech, is that the legacy structure is inapt for current problems. Tech workers don't need a union to negotiate compensation, they're compensated fine already. They don't need a huge bureaucratic structure for engaging in long-term detailed negotiations. They don't need a contract at all.

What they need is a no-dues no-fulltime-union-reps union that operates through direct democracy. It does nothing unless the employer is doing something bad wrong. Then if the majority of the union members vote to refuse, either the employer concedes or they strike.

Because it's not about a thousand little things here, it's about a small number of big things. It needs to be able to address those and then go back to being invisible instead of succumbing to feature creep and destroying the host with overhead and principal-agent problems as we've seen with the auto makers.


> Tech workers don't need a union to negotiate compensation, they're compensated fine already.

Software one of the highest margins of any industry. They can afford to pay more, especially since they are constantly whining about "shortages" of tech workers.

http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/New_Home_Page/datafile/...


> They can afford to pay more

Which is why they already do pay more than other industries.

The best argument you have against that is the anti-poaching shenanigans they've engaged in -- but that's already illegal, so the answer there is a courtroom rather than a union.


No, it really isn't. The court requires someone to notice the pattern, or be aware of the pattern, and be willing to risk their reputation. With a union, the onus is on the business to act right, or risk labour action where the SRE folks walk out, and all the little blinky lights turn off.

> The court requires someone to notice the pattern, or be aware of the pattern

How is that different with a union?

> and be willing to risk their reputation

Class action suit or submit evidence confidentially to the attorney general.

> With a union, the onus is on the business to act right, or risk labour action where the SRE folks walk out, and all the little blinky lights turn off.

If Apple won't hire Google employees then the Google employees can retaliate against Apple by not working for them?


> they're compensated fine already.

I disagree, given the massive cash reserves the tech companies have.

Yes, having a higher salary would be ridiculous in a lot of these cases, but we should moderate that through legislation that benefits the most people - not by a public company further lining the coffers of its owners.

Apple and Google particularly have a lot of cash just lying around, and that cash is the result of the employee's efforts, and they deserve it. I think if we think their salaries are too high in that case, we need to talk about better taxation systems.


> I disagree, given the massive cash reserves the tech companies have.

They have massive cash reverses because the tax laws have encouraged that rather than paying it to shareholders as dividends. And that level of return is necessary because of the nature of the industry -- you have to spend millions of dollars trying to create the next tech giant before you know whether you've succeeded or not, and most of the time you haven't. The returns to success have to be enough to overcome the high failure rate.

Most of the employees aren't taking the same level of risk. If you work for a company for five years taking home a six figure salary and that company fails, you don't have to give back your salary and in a few months you're working for another company making the same amount of money.

If you think you can do better on your own, risking your own time and money instead of taking outside investment, go right ahead -- but then shouldn't it be you who gets more of the reward if you succeed rather than the people you hire in after you're already an established success?


On the one hand it sounds like you're saying that software engineers are paid enough already, then on the other hand you're saying you think the compensation given to the software engineers that founded the company - which is much MUCH higher than that of the average company engineer is appropriate.

It feels like what you're saying is that the risk of failing in a startup is massive enough for a founder that they deserve literally billions of dollars.

Could you let me know exactly what risks you think a failing startup founder faces that would entitle them to say, a thousand times more dollars than the average salaried employee? Are you saying that because a founder may go bankrupt they are entitled to thousands of times more money? Does this mean that any individual that takes out a loan larger than their assets to start a business is entitled to thousands of times more money than their average employee? Could you help me understand what makes you think that?


> On the one hand it sounds like you're saying that software engineers are paid enough already, then on the other hand you're saying you think the compensation given to the software engineers that founded the company - which is much MUCH higher than that of the average company engineer is appropriate.

Of course, because the level of risk is different. $100,000 guaranteed is worth more than a <50% chance at $200,000, much less a <1% chance. A very high reward is inherently necessary to offset the very low probability of major success, otherwise people aren't going to do it.

> Could you let me know exactly what risks you think a failing startup founder faces that would entitle them to say, a thousand times more dollars than the average salaried employee?

The less than one in a thousand chance of making that much.

> Does this mean that any individual that takes out a loan larger than their assets to start a business is entitled to thousands of times more money than their average employee?

There are many ways to turn a thousand dollars into a 0.1% chance at a million dollars. Then 99.9% of the time you lose the thousand dollars -- and it's your time/money, not the bank's. Nobody is going to give you an unsecured loan to gamble with.

But if you bet on your own horse at 1000:1 odds and win, how are you not entitled to the proceeds?


I'm assuming that you don't think risking making no money is enough to entitle a founder to their entire employees wage. How much does it entitle them to?

> I'm assuming that you don't think risking making no money is enough to entitle a founder to their entire employees wage. How much does it entitle them to?

The amount they mutually agree upon. The employee wouldn't agree to work indefinitely for no pay.

The high compensation of successful founders is actually one of the things keeping salaries up, because any of the salaried employees has the option to quit and found their own company. The existing company has to pay well enough to compete with that -- because if what they're paying wasn't actually competitive with that alternative given the relative risk between them, why would anybody accept the salary?


That'd be all very reasonable if we lived in a world where Apple and Google weren't colluding to keep wages down.

Which is why there are laws against that, which are actively being enforced against them.

So you both think people are being paid reasonably and that Google and Apple are colluding with one another.

1) The collusion has presumably stopped now that they're caught.

2) It is possible for both to be true at the same time, because the industry is much larger than Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe. Even if they didn't compete with each other, they still have to outbid Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. -- and pay enough to prevent the workers leaving to found their own companies. It's not unreasonable to expect that the effect on wages was marginal even when it was occurring.


You're having to make a lot of presumptions to have to believe these employees are being paid fairly.

The successful entrepreneur makes his money by capital gains in the share or venture capital markets and not by extracting it from his employees. Employees compete with each other for salaries. Employer competes with other employers for both a)market share b) hiring employees -bidding up their prices. By comparing gains from entrepreneurship with regular salaries, you are comparing a stock variable with a flow variable. Even Marx got this part correct

> The successful entrepreneur makes his money by capital gains in the share or venture capital markets and not by extracting it from his employees.

Incorrect, that value is only sustained and increased by the efforts of company workers.

> Employer competes with other employers for both a)market share b) hiring employees -bidding up their prices.

Incorrect. Companies that don't have significant oversight in the form of government regulation or strong unions tend to collude to keep salaries low - which is exactly what has happened in the valley, and has meant that these companies have gigantic cash reserves that they aren't leveraging to hire the best talent.

> By comparing gains from entrepreneurship with regular salaries, you are comparing a stock variable with a flow variable.

No, I'm merely saying that the differences and risks suffered by investors and founders versus regular salaried employees are not a justification for the sometimes ridiculous difference between the compensation of the two.


If tech workers form a union, I'm sure it will look very different to the industrial worker's unions of the 20th century. And so it should, the needs of today are very different. The thing is, apart from the remaining unions from that time, most unions already look very different to that model so this is not really a good argument against unionising.

The other thing you aren't taking into account is the fact that this boom in the tech industry isn't guaranteed to continue forever. There will come a time, maybe pretty soon, where tech workers will become as precarious as those steel workers and autoworkers eventually became. Big tech companies are already putting a lot of effort and resources into educating the next generation of programmers to provide a more competitive labour market and drive down salaries. There's already talk of a coming recession, where I'm sure the belts will be tightened and people will be laid off. When we have a union, we will be more protected from the inevitable exploitation in such scenarios.

The temporarily embarassed unicorn founders among us need to realise that we are the creators of all the value in these companies and, collectively, we have the power to influence their direction and impact on society. We can help secure not only our own rights as workers but also have the power to change society at large and secure better standards of living for all workers (or non-workers). That's why these recent actions by Google employees have been so important. They can set a precedent for how other companies and even states can safely act in future, without fearing repercussions from their most valuable resource - the workers.


How do you get and pay for the infrastructure of this direct democracy without resources paid for by dues? How do you get the minority in any vote to go along with the result when there isn't any common binding agreement such as a contract that enforces majority rule?

> How do you get and pay for the infrastructure of this direct democracy without resources paid for by dues?

The technology needed to let people submit proposals and let other people vote on them is on the level what individuals do over a weekend as adjunct to a side project.

> How do you get the minority in any vote to go along with the result when there isn't any common binding agreement such as a contract that enforces majority rule?

Why do you need to force them to? By definition the majority will already agree, and then many in the minority would participate out of solidarity because that's the whole point of joining a union to begin with. You don't need 100.0%, a large majority is quite sufficient in general. And anything that actually required 100.0% is already lost, because then they could pay off the cheapest defector or contract it out.


The technology to submit and receive votes on proposals is only trivial until you think about the details, especially those required for security and authentication.

And your picture of humam behavior is all too rose-colored glasses if it's having all members of a minority vote just go along out of solidarity when it's non-binding. I've seen unions vote on issues, and it's often contentious with emotions running high on all sides. If the losing side in any of those could have just said "nope" to accepting the result, they would have. Sometimes they try to anyway.


> The technology to submit and receive votes on proposals is only trivial until you think about the details, especially those required for security and authentication.

This is a major problem for country-level populations. For corporations it typically comes pre-solved by the corporation itself, because each employee would have a company email address or Active Directory account etc. that could be used for authentication. (In theory the corporation could illegally tamper with the results that way, but the tampering would be immediately obvious to the person whose vote was changed.)

> If the losing side in any of those could have just said "nope" to accepting the result, they would have.

Because they're using the union for the wrong stuff. A lot of the votes would be for things like accepting a policy that gives raises to only senior people. No doubt the junior people being screwed over by that policy would strenuously object when they're the 49%, especially when being in the union deprives them of the opportunity to negotiate something else as an individual.

But how many Google employees have that kind of personal stake in a question like whether to censor search results in China?


Unions are rarely formed unless conditions are particularly bad. One upon a time in this country, the national guard with machine guns might have been called out to clear a strike/protest. Most people are very happy being ignorant of their surroundings or influence of.

The most I've ever done is threaten to quit if a project for the RIAA was accepted by my employer when I was invited into the pre-pitch meeting. It just depends on a specific case.


I'm part of a very privileged workforce and our situation, while not great, was a lot better than the average worker. We still managed to form a union. It can be done.

I wish more people knew that workers fought and died for those rights.

Its one thing to say maybe you'll quit, or skip your pay check for change, its another to actually put your life on the line for what you know is right.


Since China is known for its countless human rights violations, Are these Google employees also going to...

1. Give up their Chinese-Manufactured iPhones/Android Phones? Tablets? Laptops and workstations??

2. Give up watching movies/shows on their Chinese-manufactured TVs??

3. Stop wearing Chinese-made iwatches/fitbits/etc.??

4. Boycott silicon valley startups that have accepted chinese investments?

5. Boycott every product by US/Foreign company (Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, GE, Disney, Chevron, Exxon, Shell, etc.) doing business in China?


There's a difference between boycotting products made in China and protesting against building technologies that enable dictatorial regimes. They do not deserve to be conflated.

They're not "enabling" a dictatorial regime, they're just following the laws of a foreign government. Making a censored search engine isn't "supporting" the government, it's just abiding by it.

A censored search engine is a direct instrument of oppression.

Contracting to build a censored search engine is the moral equivalent of contracting to build a barbed wire fence around a concentration camp.

You're being an active participant that directly assists in making that oppression happen by building tools required for the actual act of oppression, as opposed to building something that merely done in the same country.


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There are over a billion innocent people in China. The products themselves are mostly innocent and the people who build them make their livelihoods manufacturing them. That the government takes a cut is incidental. It's simply not comparable to a product specifically built to support dictatorship.

Over 5 trillion in US tax money has been used to prosecute unjust war in the middle East resulting in 100s of thousands of deaths. Is boycotting Disney movies that support the government through taxes the same as boycotting predator drones?


"You're not allowed to do anything good ever if you're not already a maximally good person. That would make you a hypocrite, which is way worse than someone who doesn't do anything to help in the first place."

I don't understand the context in which you're posting this quote. pompousprick's argument was that we shouldn't morally prosecute these companies as supporting dictatorships just because they do business in China.

Bargaining power. (Organized) working humans have it...but it will erode as robots and algorithms take on more and more work. An argument for striking while the iron is hot. (No pun intended.)

Historically, whenever there's advancement in technology. Powers that control the current will get challenged, and so far, it has been for the better for the majority.

We've gone a long way from being serfs who have almost no rights, even the right to read and write.. to citizens who can communicate via the internet.

Advancement in technology will/have make current powers obsolete. Robots and algorithms have been taking more work since the stone age.

Better tools, means more surplus, means more time to think critically, more time to comment over the internet, or read books.

The only problem is that we probably won't see any observable improvement in one lifetime. It is however, also very possible that the incumbent powers put an end to our civilization. Hopefully enough people like these Google employees, Snowden, Assange will be there to stop fascism.


I think technology has allowed power to become more and more concentrated. Never before has one state had the power to annihilate entire cities, or land entire armies worth of troops at any point on earth within 24 hours. Never before have large and powerful organisations and governments had the capability to read every word that every person sends to each other and track their every motion around the city with cameras.

Yes there is more surplus, but where is that going? People in developed societies are working more hours now than they were 100 years ago. Wealth inequality has risen to higher levels than ever existed in modern society. I wish it gave me more time to read books...

We definitely need to be more engaged in resisting these dangerous tendencies, particularly with recent political developments. I think organised tech workers have immense power. If Google employees could formalise their current actions and then even unite with other groups across other companies, they would be a force to be reckoned with.


Corruption is a bottom up process.

It only works if everyone goes along.

Be brave and stand up for yourself, what do you have to lose?


- if they're willing

+ if they're willing and able

FTFY


Agreed. But this many Google employees acting collectively, including some very senior and long-tenured Googlers, meet that additional condition.

(Disclosure: having worked at Google I know some names on that list personally, and respect them greatly. I haven't worked at Google since early 2015.)


But this was 139 out of 88K employees [1]. Doesn't seem like that many? How do we interpret the other 87K+?

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/273744/number-of-full-ti...


It's been a long time since my statistics and econometrics courses, but one conclusion that's definitely unwarranted would be to assume that the rest disagree with the signatories. People who speak up on an issue will always be a small fraction of the larger population of people who share the same opinion.

People downthread have remarked on the lack of Chinese signatories, commenting on how the Chinese government tracks their citizens abroad. With ramifications for their family and friends as actual, real possibilities, according to some commenters.

If that were true, then their silence can definitely not be construed as any kind of tacit agreement, or even disinterest.

How many Chinese citizens (or people otherwise susceptible to this purported pressure) work at Google?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18543164


> People downthread have remarked on the lack of Chinese signatories, commenting on how the Chinese government tracks their citizens abroad. With ramifications for their family and friends as actual, real possibilities, according to some commenters.

Even as an American with no family in China, I'd be slightly worried that putting my name on such a list might prevent me from getting a visa to visit the PRC. They've shown a willingness to factor politics into visa decisions:

https://www.ft.com/content/b1bd2aec-e333-11e8-8e70-5e22a430c...

That guy didn't even express a stance, like these Google employees have, he just happened to be the acting leader of the club when a speaker the PRC opposed was scheduled to give a talk.


While threats from the Chinese government may be valid, it's more likely that they don't want to / cannot risk their H-1B status or green card priority date. So their immediate threat is more likely (indirectly) coming from USG.

> While threats from the Chinese government may be valid, it's more likely that they don't want to / cannot risk their H-1B status or green card priority date. So their immediate threat is more likely (indirectly) coming from USG.

That doesn't make a lot of sense. I don't see why the USG would want to sanction them, especially since this letter has nothing to do with the USG.

If they're discouraged from signing due to their US visa status, the mechanism that makes more sense is that they fear Google could fire them and it would take them longer than 60 days to line up another job that could sponsor them.


What is the risk, that their status would be changed in response to their involvement? If so, would there be an officially articulated basis?

They can get fired. If they're still an H-1B, that basically requires them to leave the country immediately.

There's a short grace period in practice (usually, and this isn't official) if you have another job all lined up that is ready to sponsor you. But if you were an H-1B applying for a green card via your employer, this basically resets your position in line, unless you're in late stages of the process. And keep in mind that the wait is measured in years for many countries (e.g. for India, >9 years right now unless you're in the "exceptional" category).


It would be really interesting stat to know how well heeled the 139 are vs the 88k who can afford to financially bacjk up their principles...

Out of the 88k how many dont care, how many cant afford to care, how many are looking to profit off not caring.


There's some statistic that says if one person is willing to speak out, then there's X number of people that agree but are unwilling to speak out. Don't know the accuracy of that, but I've taken it to heart and have been willing to be one of the first to speak out on multiple occasions at multiple jobs. Sometimes things change for the better. Sometimes things don't change, and I force a change by leaving. If nobody speaks up, then the status quo wins.

> There's some statistic that says if one person is willing to speak out, then there's X number of people that agree but are unwilling to speak out.

I've heard this before. I'm not sure if it's a statistic or just a saying. What's the standard formulation?


I could see it being considered both. I've also heard it applied to congress critters and senators. For every person that contacts them, they equate it to equaling a certain percentage of the people they represent. I've heard the weight of a phone call vs hand written letter vs email are different, but that was some time ago. It makes sense that when a small number/percentage of the people make contact out of a group in the thousands that some sort of statistical method would be used. These representatives should pay more attention the people as that is who puts them in their job. It doesn't really apply to corporations as they will just replace the squeaky wheels even if it's not the best thing to do morally/socially. They only care about this quarter's earnings. It's the rare company that will fix the squeak rather than replacing it, and they should be highlighted when it happens.

Yet 1 person in that company could kill it in 3 seconds even if this didn't happen. That's 1 in 88K.

My wife and I once went around and petitioned all 100 people that lived in a condo complex for a specific issue. About 80 people signed. We didn't even need to present the signature sheet - the one hold out on the board we had to convince had caved after learning about the efforts - not knowing the percentage of signers (only we had the number).


I'm more thinking from the side of all the other employees who either don't care, or have different perspetives on how well the Chinese government might or might not be doing with their tactics. I find the public internet form, especially sites like HN don't promote as much discussion from all angles as we think. I'm sure that anyone from Google who spoke up for moving into China would absolutely be skewered on here. Yet, I know they exist.


The activation energy to mobilize people is incredibly high, especially on issues that don't directly effect them. And even then it's still huge. People will always debate exactly why, but it does mean that the vast majority of people will remain mostly politically inert.

So far.

I think I covered ableness in the second paragraph. For a large and growing number of people in the US, taking on that fight could easily mean homelessness. I don't hardly consider them able on grounds of self preservation.

It's Gandhi and not Ghandi. (Couldn't resist correcting, sorry).

> Ghandi

Maybe, you meant to say - Gandhi [0] ?

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi


> You can't expect everyone to be Ghandi.

If we're talking about Ghandi, the man that fought for Indian rights (but not for Africans and in fact was a racist against them). And that is probably for the best:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTxNSU2k6l4


"You can't expect everyone to be Ghandi.". You meant Gandhi.

No, he meant ગાંધી

No, I meant Bapu

Damn, good for y'all for sticking to your values. How did you argue against the inevitable "if we don't take this contract, dude across the street will"?

>How did you argue against the inevitable "if we don't take this contract, dude across the street will"?

Collective action. They can hire 14 new guys, but they won't have any to instruct the new employees in their work.


Google is well aware of the spyware that the Chinese govt is using to oppress it's ethnic minorities, but they don't lift a finger to thwart it. They don't blacklist the app that the government requires Muslims in Xinjiang to have on their phones at all time[1]. They could easily blacklist it.

How far is Google willing to go to be friends with China? Mass detainment and ethnic cleansing are well within the realm of possibility, especially in the likely event of an economic crisis.

Will Google help sniff out their Anne Franks? Imagine trying to operate an underground railroad against the full force of Google. There are so many ways that machine learning and modern private surveillance can determine things like if there are extra uncounted people living in an area.

If Beijing did decide to solve the Uyghur problem, would Google cover for them and purge search queries?

No, this is not at all hyperbolic or reaching. American corporations did business with our enemies right up until they were forced to stop during WWII. American machines have been used to commit horrific atrocities. And read Chinese history. Read about what China has done as recently as a few decades ago.

I'm glad to see Google employees taking a break from their virtue pageantry to actually take a stand on something that matters, finally.

[1]: https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/05/31/china-has-turn...


Here is a thought for you:

If Google actually were to do anything to help they Anne Franks of China, do you think they would announce it to the world to debate on HN, or do you think they would do it in secret?


Perhaps. But "Maybe Google is just pretending to be evil" does not give me much comfort. Especially as I have friends who are ethnic minorities in SE Asia.

I'm sure they're unhappy about the dragonfly publicity, so I don't understand the point you're making.

this 100%. The business made a business decision : either veteran, that is, most valuable assets get mad and all sort of problems affecting productivty/quality happen or, a few not-yet-realized business opportunities disappears.

That was very pragmatic. Both sides wins.


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Replacing people might be easy, but it's never cheap - even in industries with an abundance of candidates.

The real issue with having your work-force leave is three-fold. First, you lose all the accumulated knowledge of your team. Second, you lose the cohesiveness of your team. Thirdly, you have to _pay to get a new team_.

All of these things conspire to make all but the lowliest of jobs (think Target Associate) much more painful to replace than it seems.

In short, there are lots of hidden costs in recruiting.


I don't know man, I see so many companies voluntarily do this aftering being bought by PE -- only to flip the same company for 5 to 6x 3 to 5 years later.

I think it is a engineer's dream to think they can't be replaced. But they can, and the probs created by it simply don't matter.


There are hidden costs to taking a stand too. The costs to either side are not the point of the story.

Nor are the outcomes produced by a few brave people locally.

The point of the story is to draw a line in the sand. And that line matters when people are afraid to stand together on one side of it.

If you look at the example of Gandhi and the Salt Tax the mere act of picking salt of the ground and being threatened with arrest unified a country and sent a signal to the British were the line was. Sending that signal matters. Countries were that signal was not sent took many more decades to get independence.


Great point, turn over is expensive.

Fourth, your potential employees know what happened to your previous employees.

Fifth, many of your remaining employees may be inspired to jump ship to a FAAN if the worst comes to pass. Much easier to be a silent follower than a vocal leader.

Point 4: the new people come in with knowledge of the walk out, which can cause all kinds of secondary reactions. If this goes through every new google employee will have something to think about during the HR feel good antics.

I think you maybe are now ignoring the number of H1B / Visa / or otherwise applicants happy to take a lucrative job that don't give 1/2 a damn about any of that.

My post about SCALE was apparently too hard to understand. There is a big sea of programmers that would be happy to work for Google censorship or not.

If you want to argue the cost of replacing people - I'd argue the cost of paying people who won't do the job you want them to do.


Allegedly the secret to Google's success is hiring (and more importantly, retaining) the best of the best. Presumably Dragonfly work can be done by any H1B, but all the people who no longer want to work at Google would impact plenty of other projects.

There's a difference between your coder who can build you a chat app and a coder who can keep you on the bleeding edge of innovation. In theory.


Negotiations like these aren't won by convincing the other side through making more points via logic or evidence. You must help decision makers to realize that their choice is not win-win, that hidden costs, unwanted consequences, or just plain bad publicity await. Almost always, bureaucrat decisions are driven more by fear of failure than prospect of success. As a naysayer, your goal is mostly to spread FUD and take the shine off their bauble.

>As a naysayer, your goal is mostly to spread FUD and take the shine off their bauble.

WOW. Yes, that must be it. I can't possibly have an opinion about the matter that doesn't align with yours because surely you are right!

The only logical option here is I am spreading fear uncertainty and doubt - because I'm Google and this directly impacts me. Anyone who disagrees must be silenced because they are wrong!

EDIT: Nope, opinions not allowed. Try and hide anyone that disagrees!


I think you misinterpreted that message. I think "naysayer" is still referring to the working people who take a stand against something they feel is morally wrong. They should focus on the more 'real' business concerns so they can affect actions if not minds.

Not that you are a "naysayer" and are trying to spread fear by commenting on this website.


>>As a naysayer, your goal is mostly to spread FUD and take the shine off their bauble.

Hmm, I must have misinterpreted that. Maybe you're right.


Speaking of scale, while the world is big and a lot of people do all sorts of things in it regardless of what I do, I am the medium through which I experience the world, so betraying or not betraying myself affects everything, past, present and future, far beyond our galaxy -- as far as I am concerned.

There's always a break even point on where keeping an employee is worth less than letting them go.

It truly depends on the company and employee though. For many people that point can be extremely high so they have the power to push for ethical (or not) choices.

That power of course multiplied by the number of such people.


> There's always a break even point on where keeping an employee is worth less than letting them go.

Not if they are employees that are complaining about doing the job you're paying them to do.

Not that I don't agree with them, but in this case, Google Co has decided a route and the employees don't want to do it. I think they may find that they are more replaceable than the down votes implying the opposite are willing to accept.


How long does it take to get a sysadmin up to speed? And how much money do they lose while their websites are unavailable? What happens if YouTube.com doesn't work for a week while they get up to speed?

TIL keeping google running is a matter of two-a-penny UNIX sysadmin skills. The SRE book was a fraud!

I never said it was easy to keep Google running. The complete opposite instead.

> Pretty bold

It's interesting you would label this as such.

In what is ostensibly the best country in the world, and a massive proponent of free speech and human rights, you think it's bold to write a letter on the internet to your extraordinarily famous employer?

If it's considered bold in the USA involving Google, I shudder to think about anyone else doing this anywhere else.

In the year 2018 I would hope it's very much not bold to do so.


Publicly calling out your employer is bold anywhere. Perhaps less so in countries like the US where that sort of speech is protected, and in sectors like tech where the speakers are likely to be well-off and not fungible, but doing this sort of thing publicly always puts you at risk of losing your job (for "unrelated performance reasons") and of being quietly blacklisted by future employers (for "poor culture fit" or any other easy excuse).

> In what is ostensibly the best country in the world, and a massive proponent of free speech and human rights, you think it's bold to write a letter on the internet to your extraordinarily famous employer?

Free speech only applies to the government though? Your employer is still free to fire you.

Sure you won't be put in jail but for most people losing their job still certainly affects their livelihood.


Free speech is a value, not just a legal right.

Corporations are explicitly tyrannies. Check out Corporate Confidential for a flavor of what a typical corporate employee could expect for signing a letter like this.

[flagged]


Please do not take HN threads deeper into political flamewar hell. Yes the parent comment contained a provocation, but that doesn't make this ok.

When pointing in this direction, take a big U-turn or don't post.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Nobody is "focused on separating families" and if you think so you've just fallen victim to divisive propaganda.

I'm not sure why you scare quote free speech and then use an example of free speech to somehow disprove free speech. Free speech isn't supposed to be just for propagating popular ideas, that's the entire point FFS.

>And I guess with 'human rights' that goes along with the USA's tendency to start senseless[9] wars[10] over oil

Ugh, what a boring and incorrect trope. The wars are not about oil, oil companies aren't the ones making money off of them. Show us all of the successful US oil companies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Additionally, the US produces enough domestic oil that it makes no sense to go after conflict oil even if that was a thing.

Finally, your whole post smacks of whataboutism. Pointing out shortcomings does not mean the US isn't leaps and bounds ahead of China/Russia/etc in human rights. Try running a newspaper truly critical of the government in China or Russia and then you'll see why 'free speech' matters.


>Additionally, the US produces enough domestic oil that it makes no sense to go after conflict oil even if that was a thing.

This was a post-Bush II, Hillary Clinton-driven innovation[1]. She helped popularize the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that has unlocked previously inaccessible domestic oil supplies. Before then, oil prices were virtually dictated by OPEC. Bush II's foreign policy was informed by this fact, and the ongoing war in Iraq he started opened their resources up to western multinational oil corporations[2]. Under Saddam, the oil in Iraq was extracted by a company that had been nationalized in 1961[3].

1. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/hillary-clinton...

2. http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/list-of-international-oil-c...

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_industry_in_Iraq#His...


>Nobody is "focused on separating families" and if you think so you've just fallen victim to divisive propaganda.

It's pretty clear that Stephen Miller has been pushing specifically for family separation. He appears to be fairly "focused" on the issue as a strategy in his goal of limiting immigration (legal and illegal) in general.


Ostensibly is defined as:

"As appears or is stated to be true, though not necessarily so; apparently."


This is a bit older, but it's a citation:

http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/multimedia/video/2008/wallace/from...

> You said: "There has never been a better society than in the United States in 1958." What do you mean by that?

> FROMM: Well, I mean it, of course, in relative terms. The history of man so far is nothing to brag about, from the standpoint of our ideas--and what I mean is, that in comparison with most other societies, our present-day American society has achieved things which are remarkable: material wealth, greater than for any other nation; a relative freedom from oppression; a relative mobility; a spreading of art, of music, of thought, which is also rather unique. So, I would say, compared with the 19th century, compared with most previous history, this is as good or better a society than any which man has ever made. But that doesn't mean it is such a good one.

Not that I disagree with you, and a lot of things changed for the worse. But still, the US has a lot of tools to fix its problems that other nations never had, and currently don't have. If the US falls for good, it will have an incredible domino effect, I for one don't want to see that happening. Wherever you are, count your blessings -- not to rest on them, but to use them, fiercely.


[flagged]


Bush Jr. also did a lot of destruction with the war on terror, and before that we had the war on drugs... Etc. Its something ongoing since the early days with the US (and most countries). Sometimes someone gets into power, but even if they wished to do great things, I get a feeling that they would not be allowed to do so.

Despite what you want to believe, there is no virtue in having a first just to have a first. I’d rather have a kick-ass first female president than a “figurehead first”. You need to examine your virtues a little before getting uptight about missing a chance to signal.

Further, the US is not great because it’s progressive. It’s great because we are allowed to be progressive. It’s great because it is structured to systemically fight oppression. Does that mean we are absolutely free of all possible oppressions? No. But we have invented a society that limits the damage oppressive factions can do. In other countries the government, the monopoly on power, is allowed to oppress (and we’re trending that way in the US, which is unfortunate) for the “greater good”. Because the government can’t do that in the US, it means we e.g. can’t silence homosexuals or transgender people arguing for equality. It means you can call Trump a thing and not have the police at your door.

We are certainly not “the greatest country evar omgee” (I’m not into the imperialist stuff either). But the example we have set for the world has lead to the fastest expansion of human knowledge our species has ever seen. That’s pretty great.


> Further, the US is not great because it’s progressive.

This is true:

~(p ^ q) -> ~(p because q)


I think you're getting downvotes because your statement brooked no argument, and people know if they comment they will be dragged into an off-topic back-and forth battle with a 9/11 truther that nobody could win.

The gap between rich and poor keeps increasing, the development of wages over the last few decades is GROSS. It's shameful. Yes, once again people in their despair got whipped into voting for a wolf in sheep's clothing, but also once again their despair is ignored.

Trump is a symptom, not a root cause. I was convinced he's a fascist nearly a year before he was elected, and even then was already annoyed by the circus around "what will he say next?". Then he did get elected (which I by the way considered to be a punishment for the popular support of Bernie Sanders... one thing is sure, the next president will just have to be a polite human being, and a lot of people will cry tears of joy and eat out of their hand, "progressive" now got reset to "not utterly mad"), and it go so much worse, instead of fixing their own mistakes, people just point fingers at him some more. He's a giant distraction.


Yeah, I guess blacks must hate record low unemployment. [1] Lowest unemployment for the whole country since 1969 at 3.7% [2] 3.5-4.2 percent GDP growth [3] which Obama claimed Trump couldn't do, lacking a magic wand [4]

But I guess if you're interested in virtue signaling, checking boxes and waxing poetic about what could have been...rather than looking at actual quality of life stats for Americans...I guess the U.S. might look like a lost cause.

Oh and if you want to understand the electoral college, read The Federalist Papers [5]. It's far more resilient to corruption than a nationwide popular vote.

[1] https://money.cnn.com/2018/06/01/news/economy/black-unemploy... [2] https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/410081-kudlow-says-latest-... [3] https://www.bea.gov/news/glance [4] https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/281936-oba... [5] http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1786-1800/the-federalist...


‘Ostensibly’ does not mean what you think it means.

I think, clearly, the larger issue here is the false idea that the USA is a proponent of free speech or human rights.

I would certainly never in a million years hope anyone would seriously claim the US to be the greatest country in the world.


> I would certainly never in a million years hope anyone would seriously claim the US to be the greatest country in the world.

I am quite certain a significant proportion of Americans genuinely believe it is.


Argumentum ad populum. Are you really going to generalize as well?

I hate many things about what the US is becoming--or has always been--but it does have some of the strongest free-speech rights in the world (though less so in recent decades as other nations catch up), and the world's highest public support for freedom of speech. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/freedom-of-speech-cou...

The Trump administration has stumbled backwards very publicly with regard to the people that the framers intended for free speech rights to protect: journalists. From overt anti-journalist rhetoric[1], to possible collusion in the murder of US national Jamal Khashoggi[2], a journalist critical of the Saudi regime. "Free speech" has been co-opted so effectively by the far-right movement that the same people who wave it around to defend debate of genocide simultaneously advocate for the prosecution of journalists.

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35EWlJMmO4s

2. https://twitter.com/RVAwonk/status/1064718127903268864


> possible collusion in the murder of US national Jamal Khashoggi

Not central to the point, but Kashoggi was not a US national. He was a US-resident Saudi citizen. It's possible to be a US national but not a citizen, but Kashoggi wasn't one: https://www.immihelp.com/immigration/us-national.html


Quibbling over status is an interesting fallout of the same right-wing nationalist rhetoric. You're right though. He was a Saudi citizen, US resident on an O Visa with US citizen children on his way to a green card[1].

Should we not care about his murder as much then?

1. https://qz.com/1428499/jamal-khashoggi-what-trump-owes-khash...


> Should we not care about his murder as much then?

Actually, the correction was so that people wouldn't continue making the mistake, not because his citizenship status is a critical point. The error is a distraction from the main point that is avoidable in the future.


>The error is a distraction from the main point that is avoidable in the future.

Point taken. The intricacies of status continue to wonder and delight. :)


I think that the USA is definitely a proponent of free speech, and actually that it takes it to extremes.

Pretty much the only speech outlawed is child pornography and that which a reasonable person would see as inciting imminent violence. That's a pretty high bar, higher than any other country I've ever heard of.


I agree that the US has stronger free speech protections than any country I'm aware of, but we have more restrictions than the 2 you've mentioned.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_free_speech_exce...


Yes, words under copyright and defamatory statements. Not a huge expansion, covered under 'pretty much' in my opinion.

Fighting words is essentially a dead precedent, and all that remains is inciting imminent violence, which I mentioned.


>copyright and defamatory statements

These are much bigger restrictions that impact far more people than the others you mentioned.

>Fighting words is essentially a dead precedent, and all that remains is inciting imminent violence, which I mentioned.

There's also huge limitations on commercial speech; obscenity (which covers more than child pornography); reasonable time, manner, and place restrictions; perjury; blackmail; harassment; solicitations to commit crimes (not just inciting violence); student's speech while in school.


Obscenity doesn't cover much more than child pornography. It used to, but not anymore. You should read Reno v ACLU.

The reasonable time, manner and place restrictions aren't enforced and also wouldn't be upheld, but you're right, perjury, blackmail and some kinds of harassment aren't covered. Solicitations to commit crimes actually aren't always illegal.


>Obscenity doesn't cover much more than child pornography. It used to, but not anymore.

The definition of obscenity isn't well defined, but there are still numerous laws throughout the US that ban obscene speech that have been upheld--zoophilia porn laws, and bans on selling sex toys are 2 examples I can think of off the top of my head.

>The reasonable time, manner and place restrictions aren't enforced and also wouldn't be upheld

The government very regularly enforces this. What do you think free speech zones and protest permits are for?


You're in for a bad surprise. A lot of people were opposed to Trump's "Make America Great Again" claim because the claim insinuates that the US might not be literally the greatest country in the world right now.

[1][2][3] Besides being a revised policy that no longer applies (and yes, policies take time to unwind)...there is no universal human right to emigrate to any country whatsoever. I know a lot of people think so...

but also this pales in comparison to the abuses of existing Chinese nationals by China, taking Muslim property [1], placing citizens in internment camps and abusing them, placing them under "deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress as they are forced to abandon their native language, religious beliefs and cultural practices" [2], imposing a nationwide social credit system that can deny citizens of China basic access to education, air travel, etc on a whim [3]...

Whatever your thoughts on Trump (besides being off-topic...he's not racist, by the way [4])...he's kept in check by a robust court system, a constitutional republic and the congress itself from imposing the systems listed above on U.S. citizens.

And yes, free speech is the right to say offensive things. There's no reason whatsoever to protect "inoffensive" speech. Yes, free speech (and liberty in general) allows you to be skeptical of the assessment on global climate change. It allows you to question what role if any, our government should have in attempting to control the climate. Sorry you hate liberty, maybe you would prefer if a social credit system imposed punishment on those not pre-disposed to your particular beliefs? If so, then China is looking like a good move for you.

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-uighur-m... [2] http://www.tribtown.com/2018/11/26/us-united-states-china-in... [3] https://www.businessinsider.com/china-social-credit-system-p... [4] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/23/trump-pushes-senate-to-pass-...


> he's not racist, by the way

Literally his first appearance in the NYT was for being a racist asshole - https://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2015/07/30/1973-meet-d...


And then he counter-sued the DOJ and then reached a settlement. The disagreement was over welfare applicants. That can be twisted a number of ways, but you can't misconstrue that to imply racism. Landlords (and banks by the way) have a legitimate, financial duty to lease to the most-qualified tenants. When you ignore financial qualifications...you get the 2008 real estate crash.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2186613-realty-compa... https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2186614-trump-promis...


I'm sorry, but if 'liberty' includes the ability to reserve the right to deny science to continue destroying the entire planet, I'm not sure I can support it.

Sounds like liberty for humans, and not for the planet, which we have to live on.

What's the point in free speech if we destroy the place we live in? Who will be left to speak?


Yeah, and if the climate scientists are as wrong as nutritionists were about fats [1][2]...then what? We destroy the world economy for the wrong reason? In ANY complex system, there are trade offs for every choice. And would you starve a billion people to save the planet? Would you quadruple oil prices to cut emissions...hurting the poorest in the process? The point of free speech is that we DEBATE things like this so we can TRY to arrive at the best answer, knowing damn well we still might have to TRY AGAIN if and when we fail.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_pyramid_(nutrition)#Origi... [2] http://www.jbc.org/content/86/2/587.full.pdf+html


> there is no universal human right to emigrate to any country

You've really mischaracterized the situation. Check out "No Wall They Can Build" for a closer look, and maybe "An Indigenous People's History of the US" for an explanation of the sentiment that "we didn't cross the border; the border crossed us."

It's not ambiguous, to those of us holding the facts, that the US' encroachment onto Latin American life is a violation of human sovereignty, and dignity—if not explicitly the peculiarly circumscribed "legal rights to emigrate."


No, it's actually racist to give latin americans preference over the millions of asians, europeans, and africans that also want to move here.

It seems like your anti-Trump sentiment is serving as a heuristic for general anti-Americanism. The reality is far from this. The US scores high on list of freedom indices[1] and HDI[2].

So yes, the consequences of making a "bold" statement from a 6-figure tech job in the US will be different than taking similar actions in less developed places. Don't let your hatred of Trump bias you.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_freedom_indices#List_b... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index#2018_H...


Not to be cynical, but did another company take over that work for them? Did the police get their MRAPs?

This is a problem that my employer faces. We have a strong concept of corporate responsibility, and plenty of opportunity for employee pushback, but we repeatedly see our decisions simply subverted by competitors who don't have any sense of morals and just go where the money is. It becomes a nasty tradeoff where you think about building/doing things that don't feel good, just to maintain a position to have a positive influence on _other_ areas, where a competitor might simply act without morals everywhere. It's not fun to think about these things in a market with bad incentives.

Wait, because your competitors will maintain MRAPs “they have no sense of morals”?

Your morals are your own? Why do you insist on imposing them on others?


I get what you mean and it's a case by case basis, if people didn't try and push any morals we would all live in vacuums where all we have is the law to tell us what is _right_.

A lot of people have no problem with their countries governments manufacturing and/or selling arms to dictatorships that inflict harm on innocents and supply extremists e.g. UK-Saudi arms trading. As far as some are concerned the UK is just doing what another country may do instead.


Because that's the only way to solve moral co-ordination problems?

If you leave a morally odious contract on the table (lets say it's cutting up human babies for baby veal) knowing your competitors will take the project, enrich themselves, expand, and develop the capacity to engage in larger, even more odious business, then what's the proper course of action?

Do you cut up babies because fuck morals? Or do you try to get no one to cut up babies? What if you have imperfect information and aren't certain if your competition would do it? What if they have imperfect information about your intentions and decide to take the deal purely on that basis?

Should be straightforward to recognize how corrosive this cycle gets.

EDIT: some people seem to be upset with the baby example. Just exchange that with anything you find clearly morally unacceptable. Like selling reverse mortgages to elderly people with limited capacity, or signing people up for ponzi schemes or adding intentionally addictive additives to a harmful consumable product, etc.


I mean, all I'm trying to say is that most companies are subject to the competition pressure in their market regardless of internal employees' morals, and it becomes hard to justify "standing up for your beliefs" in a business sense that isn't just "shut down the business or change industries," if there are inherent moral issues in the current industry.

When I say "have no sense of morals," I'm talking about competitors who were acquired by large PE firms a decade or more ago and do not have any internal discussions about the morals of what their employees are building/maintaining. They operate entirely by asking what clients want and then trying to build what they can of those requests.

I'm mostly talking about incentives and market pressures, not "imposing morals on others" or other such emotional nonsense that you are reading into here.


Hence regulation.

If that one employer made it public that they chose not to deal with MRAP repair, I would wholly choose to do business with them and spread the word that they have are a responsible corporate citizen like wildfire.

And you'd have half your city boycott it because they refuse to support the boys in blue.

Great story dude. We can't pretend more people don't think like this. People working in and around corporations can make a difference by talking about it with other people. Thanks for sharing!

Great story - random question --- but how did you find out about HN? (I'm just asking because you implied you don't work in software, etc.)

Well, his profile says... "Linux fan".

ah i missed that. thanks

The key here is you acted together. Individuals acting alone have very little bargaining power. But once employees start acting together with a single purpose their power gets very difficult to ignore.

Whether people believe unions are a good idea or not, the key is to organize into something that allows people to work together and find common ground to address common problems.


Thank you for standing up for what's right... :) If only more individuals & businesses stood up against militarism in our communities!

Well done buddy, it's great to hear about people taking a principled stand, especially when money's involved.

It's not just about the equipment the police force use, it's also about the training. Given military equipment, the police force will also get military training matching the equipment they get. Military knowledge and tactics should not be used used to police a civilian population.

Thank you for standing up to this.


Thank you. We literally need more people exactly like you in this world. The militarization of the police force is something that started with George W., continued unabated with Obama, and will probably be accelerated under Trump, and it is anti-democracy in my opinion.

Thank you for sharing this; the world needs many more people who actually live and act on their ethical boundaries.

Thanks for standing up

Thank you for committing yourself to non-aggression.

Wow. Great story, thank you for sharing this.

You are the heroes we need.

Beautiful and inspiring story.

Wow! So basically, someone managed to risk police offier lives with their ill thought out plan and people on HN are applauding them?

What should a police crew use against a criminal equipped with high caliber armor piercing guns?


Gun control legislation.

> What should a police crew use against a criminal equipped with high caliber armor piercing guns?

The Army?


I wonder how this policy would interact with something like the Posse Comitatus Act.

Would it effectively require applying the label "terrorist" or "national security threat" to any criminal who shows they are prepared to use lethal force against a law enforcement officer?


Yeah, life isn't "Die Hard", if someone is using "high caliber armor piercing guns" against the local PD, then classifying them as "domestic terrorists" and calling in specialists to deal with them seems appropriate to me.

Police have to deal with enough crap that they shouldn't be expected to handle paramilitary situations as well, is what I'm saying.

As a counterexample, remember the "Bundy standoff"? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundy_standoff That's the kind of situation where the Posse Comitatus Act means you don't send in the Army. However, if they had shot a bunch of people I'm sure they would have had to face at least the National Guard, eh?


I considered working at Google last year after a recruiter reached out to me, but their decision to backtrack on their promise in China changed my mind. I do not morally condemn anyone who works at Google. I have many good friends that are both bright engineers and undeniably good people that work there. I just feel that as someone who's family is Taiwanese, I cannot in good consciousness support the company. I let the recruiter know this because I believe it's important that they know. I'm curious if anyone else on HN has had similar experiences.

Good for you, for real. It takes a lot sometimes to stand up against something that a lot of other people would jump for the chance to do.

While I think the average developer has a more negative opinion of Google these days, for years they have been considered one of the best places to work in the world.

I know if I told my parents, for instance, I had done what you did, they probably would've called me an idiot. :P They just know Google is one of the biggest tech companies in the world, they don't see a lot of their especially recent practices as bad.

To say 'no, thank you, I'd rather not as I don't agree with the company's practices' indicates a kind of moral standing I wish more people would confidently have. It shows you're taking a personal stand against what you believe to be corruption, and that's awesome.

Rock on!


> Good for you, for real. It takes a lot sometimes to stand up against something that a lot of other people would jump for the chance to do.

While it is a nice enough gesture, let's not kid ourselves that this was some difficult selfless act on the part of the OP. Apologies to the OP if I have misinterpreted their earlier post but:

> I considered working at Google last year after a recruiter reached out to me

This statement often becomes true by virtue of having a reasonable computer science qualification and living in the Bay Area - eventually a recruiter for a FAANG style company is going to spam you with an email. Actually converting an outreach from a recruiter to you know, an actual concrete job offer at Google, is another matter entirely.

If declining recruiters is the new (very low!) bar for high minded civic engagement, I'm accidentally a grizzled activist on the front line.


You don't just have to live in the Bay Area to get those emails, at the very least anywhere in the US you will get them.

Source: have never lived in the Bay Area. Have a large number of those emails in my gmail.


I live outside the US and have also received recruiter emails for Google offices throughout the EU.

People knowing about OP’s decision, was those in his social circle, makes a profound difference if compounded by others.

>eventually a recruiter for a FAANG style company is going to spam you with an email.

This. I have said 'no, thanks' to FAANG in the last 3 months because my life is in a bit of a flux right now. It was a bit more than a simple 'no, thanks' in case of Facebook, but that's a story for another thread :)


Post it, it's relevant

OTOH, AMZN and MSFT have never even hesitated to accommodate the Chinese govt's demands. Which other companies do you think would be more ethically conscious than GOOG in these circumstances? (I don't work there.)

Dont forget AAPL! (who hesitated, but ended up capitulating on the iCloud front).

I think the moral of the story here is that it's better to sell out from day 1 than to be seen as a hypocrite.


> who hesitated

Source? I was not aware there was any hesitation or even disagreement from Apple's side. Is there an Apple statement saying they disagree w/ Chinese government requests similar to the statements saying they disagree w/ US government requests? In their absence, is it safe to assume they agree since they have shown that when they disagree they make public statements?


They didn't really hesitate, they just dodged questions. Apple moved their user data and keystore to local datacenters in China [1]. Apple even updated their TOS and forced their Chinese users to accept (or drop service) to reflect this.

As of July, these datacenters were nationalized [2], giving the Chinese government access to all Apple user data.

It took only two years to go from refusing the FBI request for one user to handing over the encryption keys to millions of users.

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-apple-icloud-insigh...

[2] https://mashable.com/article/china-government-apple-icloud-d...


fyi neither of your links work.

Fixed - thanks.

Not selling out loses all meaning the moment you do.

> Which other companies do you think would be more ethically conscious than GOOG in these circumstances?

If you wanted to do software work for a company that didn't kowtow to Chinese government demands, chances are 99% of jobs are available to you. Does that mean they could if they would? Unknown, and since regimes change with frequency you can't rely on stated principles, only actions.


Would you still work for Amazon? Microsoft? Apple? Facebook?

Because they are actually in China and give concessions to the government.


The idea that a foreign corporation has a duty to break Chinese law with regards to web filtering is very problematic, if that's what you mean by "give concessions to the government". How far should such a corporation go with breaking the law, is tax evasion against the Chinese state morally acceptable, since those taxes might be used for oppression?

We should recognize here a very thin line between respecting the Chinese law and actively collaborating to subvert human rights - because the law is defined by an authoritarian regime with a long history of human right abuses.

That being said, surely you cannot change Chinese law from outside China, and if respecting it's current iteration is not in itself an unacceptable violation of human rights, it stands to reason that expanding in China at least forces the government to stick to it's own laws under the threat of a public exit and protest if unlawful pressures are made. It puts ethical companies in a position where they can nudge the Chinese towards ethical behavior - or at least very publicly denounce unethical demands.


You can't change Chinese law from inside China either. The only winning move is not to play.

Are there any legal restrictions on what the Chinese government can ask websites to censor? I am not aware of any, so I don't see where there would be an opportunity to protest.

I believe it's already established that operating in China means responding to all censorship requests. Nonetheless, there are still many things an ethical company could refuse: access to the private searches and information of an individual without a due legal process, collecting sensitive information altogether knowing that it's fair game for the state, knowingly alter or influence results to promote official narratives and propaganda, knowingly use or profit from the proceeds of labor camps, underage or other forms of work exploitation; and many, many more, which are surely not positively codified in any Chinese law, yet are widespread.

I don't think it's fair to try and nitpick people's ethical decisions like this.

Imagine yes, this person would work for Amazon even though they're in China too. Does that make them not working for Google because they're in China a bad choice? I don't think so.

Are we really prepared to tear everyone down who isn't absolute in their morality?


A moral inconsistency is not a nitpick when it's the entire industry.

Their logic makes Google a better employer than Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and any other tech company currently operating in China. Saying they spurned Google because the company was considering going to China is disengenious, since the majority of the substitute employers are already in China.


> Saying they spurned Google...the majority of the substitute employers are already in China.

There is life outside of the FAANG/GAFAM bubble. If you refuse to work at Google, it doesn't mean that you're then obligated to work at Amazon or Microsoft, etc.


Of course there is, but when considering substitute employers, in the economic sense, working in a small-town software shop isn't quite the same as working at a multinational tech company.

If we're looking at it in that lens, then GP's problem isn't with Google, but with large tech companies in general because that's the industry standard.


> Of course there is, but when considering substitute employers, in the economic sense, working in a small-town software shop isn't quite the same as working at a multinational tech company.

The life outside of the FAANG/GAFAM bubble isn't just "small-town software shop[s]." There's a lot more diversity than that, and to conceive of the industry in that way is too parochial.


How many of those companies can be considered substitute employers to Google? That offer the same level of compensation?

That is what an economic substitute is. SMB tech companies typically don't compare.


You're saying his moral position is invalid because he doesn't apply it consistently, and that is not true, and also possibly harmful.

I said the moral position is disingenuous because it is both inconsistent and opposite to what he is describing, when considering all things related.

But each "related" decision is different, and there is no accurate generalization, by the very nature of what a generalization is.

There's a big difference between operating a business in China in general, and operating a business that necessarily involves implementing their surveillance infrastructure.

And Bing doesn't, while Dragonfly does?

I honestly have no idea. Last I heard, Bing is blocked in China, which I assume means that there are things that come in its search result that Chinese government doesn't like.

But Dragonfly [ostensibly] went well beyond just censoring results, in that it implemented specific tools like linking search requests with phone numbers identifying people who made those requests. That's straight-up aiding and abetting oppressing people - political opposition, for example, or even unorganized dissenters. I can't believe we are even seriously talking about whether this is okay or not.


bing.com redirects to a Chinese version of Bing, which prioritises Chinese sites.

I have no basis for saying this beyond not knowing how they could do this otherwise, but I would assume that they must censor results to exist there. I don't know if they go further, such as you describe Dragonfly plans to do.


I sympathize with your position, especially regarding Taiwan, but I wonder if your early rejection was as effective as employees rebelling? One need not take the most effective route, but given the size of Google, when I was in a similar position to yours I justified it by saying if I got an offer, I'd make it very clear I'd want nothing to do with the censorship work for the exact reason you listed.

Both are good. I'm sure Google carefully tracks why candidates decline jobs at Google, and if enough of them say "I can't work with you because you're doing specific evil thing X," then it becomes more and more worth it not to do X.

Similarly, if internal morale is in decline and reports come back saying that it's because of X, that also has a real (and quite possibly quantifiable) cost.


Do you think that recruiters spend time forwarding your response to someone at Google who actually cares? I usually decline jobs/projects outright, but I wonder if I shouldn't waste some time on interviews before telling the company why I won't work for them. It's not like there's a shortage of projects, and I'd like to maximize my political "leverage".

Yeah, I have ignored recruiters hiring for companies I have moral qualms in regards to, despite the jobs being undoubtedly quite lucrative. Haven't ever let them know about my moral aversion though.

Sounds like a good call.

It's much easier to excel in the pursuit of something you believe in. Seems like folks who accept jobs that they don't believe in are liable to become increasingly demotivated and eventually burned out.


I will not work for Google for the same reason, fwiw.

Do you in good consciousness support the U.S. government? I'm asking because the government doesn't recognize Taiwan as an independent country and kicked Taiwan out of the United Nations in 1971.

The United States did not kick the Republic of China out of the United Nations in 1971, the UN General Assembly did. The US voted against Resolution 2758.

> Do you in good consciousness support the U.S. government?

What kind of question is that? No citizen supports all the actions of their government. Government options are a lot more limited than employment options.


This absolutist view of things is really problematic.

It's true that the US government officially recognizes the Beijing government as the legitimate Chinese government and doesn't recognize Taiwan.

OTOH, the US has a security partnership with Taiwan. See https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-united-states-securit... for details of this unique relationship.


[flagged]


Please don't do this here.

I, too, had a very similar experience. Although I am of Indian descent, I still strongly agree with your views. It's really unfortunate that the leadership at Google doesn't follow the "do no evil" mantra anymore. These sorts of decisions aren't in the hands of an every-day engineer, so they are not at fault here in my opinion. And by standing up and vocalizing that distaste, I believe they are doing the right thing. Google makes some amazing products, so I see the appeal of working there. But many of those engineers have been around before the company started going in this direction, so I can't blame them. It's the leadership that needs to understand values > profits. At least if they want my continued support.

Much of this is PR dominance as well. Corporate media has already done 90% of the hard work for people to be able to easily market and feel good about opposing specific issues. You just need to fill in the colors in the coloring book. But these issues have been done and accepted for the longest time, such as Google's State Department staffed Jigsaw branch that creates tools, shown in Wikileaks, to assist overthrowing foreign governments in collaboration with the State Department, or tools that AI-censors comments, or tools that delegates control of the discoverability of grassroot contents to other corporate conglomerates.

> I do not morally condemn anyone who works at Google.

How can you say this when those that build, even small parts, of surveillance technology are directly contributing to oppression?

Workers absolutely have a moral obligation to what they work on. This notion that they're not responsible for this is horrifically wrong.


I'm fairly anti-China and loved Taiwan, can't wait to go back, loved it, loved the Taiwanese people.

Good for you on making a decision like that.

But... Just so long as you know that someone did take your job there. And they're almost certainly happy to do anything asked. That's something I think many idealistic users here aren't understanding.


> someone did take your job there. And they're almost certainly happy to do anything asked.

If talented engineers were that easy to find, Google wouldn't have participated in illegal wage-fixing; and that's without selecting for engineers that want to support an authoritarian regime. Statistically speaking, every rejection drives up the price. To wield even more power, we'd need to form some kind of industry-wide union.


I think, what these employees don't realize is: Even when a company places values over profits, it is still in an attempt to maximize profits over the long term. By placing values above profits, it increases it's goodwill with customers thus increasing it's moat and it's retention, as well as it's employee retention. This strategy made sense in the early days.

Not anymore.

As Google's position becomes increasingly strengthend (with all the market share it can capture in search already realized ~ and it slightly decreasing anyway due to it's slightly tarnished brand), it doesn't need to maintain this illusion of values over profits anymore.


The "values over profits" approach was always more of a recruitment tool than a PR tool. It did give a nice PR boost, but realistically Google's been the best choice of search engine since it came out in 1998. They don't need additional customer goodwill for people to keep using them, they just need to continue to give good results for esoteric queries.

Since 2005, though, good engineers have had lots of options for where to work, many of which pay better or have more growth potential than Google. And "Don't Be Evil" was a great way to persuade them to come work for Google rather than Yelp or Facebook or some hedge fund, and keep them there rather than have them go off and found their own startups that potentially could compete with Google. Because so much of their product moat depends upon technical excellence, keeping the best engineers within the company is critical for them.

I'll predict that if they don't reverse course on this, we'll see a mini-exodus of Googlers who either end up founding their own startups or start working on political-tech projects. Ultimately I think that may be good for the world, but it's not really in Google's long-term interests, although perhaps at this point their moat is entrenched enough and they're big enough that it doesn't really matter.


> Since 2005, though, good engineers have had lots of options for where to work, many of which pay better or have more growth potential than Google.

Growth probably, but very few actually pays better than Google considering all the perks and work life balance you would get from working for Google. And since the startup boom is almost over, it is even more so like that now...


Almost all wealth in Silicon Valley comes from equity price appreciation. Google stock has appreciated 7x since 2009, but Facebook has appreciated 38x in the same time period, Yelp 13x, Netflix about 35x, Apple about 6-7x.

I think the boom in web & mobile startups is basically over at this point, but there's a new boom in cryptocurrency & AI startups that's just beginning, along with a social movement (multiple social movements, actually) that's just beginning and will likely need communication technology to organize.


This is only really true at startups. At a bigco, your on paper comp can be 250 or 350k annually in cash equivalents. That quickly generates wealth even if you are given only cash.

You're comparing 2 pre-ipo companies to Google and apple.


Still true at BigCo. Total comp as a senior SWE at Google when I left (almost 5 years ago - it's more now) was something like ~$175K cash, ~$125K stocks + options, ~$50K bonus. With the 5x appreciation in stock that was going on while I was there, the stock portion could be worth $625K/year by the time it all vested. That's as employee 20,000+.

"or have more growth potential"

Right, but this is different from having higher expected value, or higher likely-case value. Most people don't value compensation offers based on 'growth potential' (aka 'best case').

(I'm assuming you mean growth in the sense of 'growth in value of equity', based on your reply to another commenter)


I was actually thinking of growth as in "professional growth" - getting promoted faster, having a chance to learn more skills, doing things you wouldn't be able to do. I was thinking of the equity growth in terms of "pay more".

OK, so I'm curious: do many companies in the bay area pay more for engineers (on either an expected value or a worst case basis) than Google does? Sure, some of those startups will make their early employees very very rich, but most will fizzle or fail.

By reputation, Netflix pays more cash than Google. Like I said in the other subthread, though, the majority of your compensation in a tech company is in equity. The biggest price appreciation in equity is for younger, faster-growing companies. When I was at Google, that was largely Facebook; by the time I'd left, it was companies like AirBnB, Pinterest, Medium, and Snapchat (though I dunno how well folks at the latter 3 are doing nowadays).

There's something you've overlooked: companies are ultimately run by humans. Humans who make decisions at all levels of the hierarchy, in order to further their own personal priorities, even if it dramatically conflicts with the shareholders' goals of maximizing profits.

In some cases, the personal priorities can be personal advancement. We see this all the time when managers hire/promote their friends, sexually harass their subordinates, and make decisions on the basis of politics as opposed to technical/business merit.

And in other cases, the personal priorities can be moral values. Values such as promoting free speech, fighting censorship, protecting consumer rights, and avoiding layoffs.

The idea that every single decision taken by a company is perfectly optimized to maximize long term profits, is baseless. There simply does not exist any mechanism to monitor and enforce such a requirement. The shareholders have only one lever to pull: accept the current leadership team, imperfections and all. Or fire them and risk destroying the company in the resulting churn. This gives both the executives and employees tremendous leeway to prioritize values over profits, as long as they are good enough to not get fired.


Shareholders can do more than just fire the management team, they can set meaningful objectives and tie management compensation to reaching them.

Yeah, and then the CEO decides he'd rather make $124M that year and feel good about himself in not kowtowing to totalitarian governments vs doing so and making $125M that year. The entire point of this comment thread is that individual people are not motivated solely by money. They care about many other things too, like their values.

Hell, this entire post exists because some Google employees care more about their values than about making as much money as possible.


The only people not motivated solely by money are those who used the very tactics that are in question to amass enough not to care... Or simply have no stake in it, Or have a stake in a competing company.

I can assure you if google employees revolt on a number of projects and that drops the stock price in half over the course of 3 weeks PEOPLE WILL CARE... Even the ones that today you say don't care.


> The only people not motivated solely by money are those who used the very tactics that are in question to amass enough not to care... Or simply have no stake in it, Or have a stake in a competing company.

What an absurdly preposterous thing to say. Money is a motivator and a large one for many, many people, but it's ridiculous to call it the sole motivator for everyone.


> The only people not motivated solely by money are those who used the very tactics that are in question to amass enough not to care...

There are an awful lot of people in this very comment thread who would claim to be counterexamples to this. Are you going to say they're all lying or deluded about their own motivations?


We need to disempower shareholders.

Interesting interview / history on this issue I read recently from the guy behind much of panera bread: https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-founder-of-p...

Even when a company places values over profits, it is still in an attempt to maximize profits over the long term.

This might sound weird but some people (and companies) don't subscribe to the notion that money is the only thing that matters.


Well, a publicly traded company has the fiduciary obligation to make its shareholders money. So it really does not matter what the "the people" want, it matters what the shareholders want. In fact, the board and executive team are legally required to make the the decisions that make increase the value of the company. They could be in real trouble with the law if they knowingly do something that devalues the company.

It's not to say that the employees don't have some power. Shareholders may play along with their request while figuring out how to maximize the profits and avoid such road bumps as this in the future.

So in the end you have to weigh the wants/needs of the employees and how much money might be lost or gained if you go along with their demands vs how much money can be made or lost if you ignore them.

I could see a argument that upsetting your employees could lead to a value drop that might be greater than whatever contract they are protesting. But it is hard to judge, and it will often only be looked at quarter to quarter.


Nope.

Now if you give the impression that you are all bout money but don't act like it then shareholders can be rightfully upset. But if you clearly state your values and ambitions and shareholders don't like it? Then, sucks to be them! There is nothing more to it than that.

Serving shareholders’ “best interests” is not the same thing as either maximizing profits, or maximizing shareholder value. "Shareholder value," for one thing, is a vague objective: No single “shareholder value” can exist, because different shareholders have different values. Some are long-term investors planning to hold stock for years or decades; others are short-term speculators.

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/16/what-are-co...


I am sorry, I think both you and Lynn Stout, are wrong, regardless of her credentials -- she sort of is making a name of her self by swing this sort of nonsense -- so her articles are self serving.

And yes, we can define shareholder value -- its the stock price. But I see your point and why I have talked about the grey area of what is the best move. But you would be hard pressed to find a group of shareholders who who all agree not taking big contracts is going to be the best move.


It doesn't matter if the shareholders believe it is not the best move. It matters if the board believes it is the best move for the long term benefit of the company and its shareholders. The duty of loyalty does not require a board to do everything the shareholders want or to maximize short term profits. If a majority of the shareholders disagree they can vote to replace the board, but that doesn't mean the board hasn't met its fiduciary duty.

If the companies value and ambition is to maximize the stock price then the stock price is a good metric. If the companies value is something else then stock price isn't really a good metric.

It will also attract shareholders that share those values and thus going against them will cause an uproar.


It really depends on their charter. People don't park money in a company simply to have the stock value drop or stay the same -- with exception of companies who pay out dividends.

Most companies charters talk about their relationship and obligations to the shareholders -- people don't invest in companies that don't intend on increasing in value.


Again, value doesn't have to be monetary. Shareholders has the right to expect return on their investment, yes. If the company delivers on their ambitions and values then that is the shareholders reward.

I don't think we are going to agree any time soon. The law is messy and it seems different cases can be signed supporting both of our points.

Thanks for a civil disagreement and exchange.


Shareholders do.

Perhaps I'm naive, but I don't expect that all (or even most) shareholders think that only money matters.

There are better places to play the virtue game, than on the stock market.

If the stock market is as amoral as you think then it seems something ought to be done to the stock market. But I don't think most people would invest in something that goes starkly against their personal ethics, no matter how profitable. And if you regard following one's moral compass as just "virtue gaming" I'm not sure what to think.

Doesn't matter. Shareholders must do their research. If they don't subscribe to the values then they can either not buy or suit themselves.

That is not how that works. A company -- with a few special exceptions and special charters -- ONLY goal is to increase value for this shareholders. A single shareholder with a non majority holding can sue if the company knowingly does something that causes the values of his shares to decrease -- even if the rest of the shareholders are okay with the loss because they agree with the sentiment.

There is some grey area along strategy short game vs long game, but a company's charter is to increase the value of its shareholders -- THE ONLY THING that literally matters for a publicly traded company*

* Some companies can be setup with a different charter that does not prioritize profit, but google and most of the publicly traded companies on the market today are not those. And it would be very hard to convert to such a company.


How does a shareholder prove that it's not just a short term loss in value, and that the decision won't actually benefit the company in the long run?

Huh, that's an excellent point. When a company is so big and entrenched it doesn't need to seem like the nice guy anymore.

Perhaps similarly to anti-monopoly laws we should also have size caps on companies.


> we should also have size caps on companies

As a thought experiment, I've often wondered the best way to maintain the positive corporate culture that small companies tend to lose as they grow.

It's not clear it's simply growth, or whether it's profits. I wonder if a non-charity oriented non-profit would maintain a better corporate culture.


> the positive corporate culture that small companies tend to lose as they grow.

It's more like regression to the mean; it gets harder to be different as you grow. Good companies get worse, bad companies better (just look at Uber's internal culture).


Dunbar's Number, I believe, gives some insight. Basically, humans can only maintain about 150 relationships. As organizations grow personal relationships are replaced with rules and structures as a matter of necessity.

Agreed. I suppose sociopaths can get away with more when there's so many people that the relationship/connections between everyone are weaker on average.

I used to think the same way, but then I came to a different understanding of sociopathy as an evolutionary adaptation. Those sociopaths are important and useful. The video below has a little deeper explanation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33Ftipn4fyI


I would agree with that if we could also have a size cap on government.

> I think, what these employees don't realize is: Even when a company places values over profits, it is still in an attempt to maximize profits over the long term.

Come on. A lot of people create startups to do something interesting that they're passionate about. Customers and profit merely serve these ends, not the other way around.


What are some potential solutions here? Some form of intervention by the US government? I think many of us will agree that the sort of behavior these employees are speaking out against is at least unethical, and it also seems this "profits-over-values" behavior is a common one for large tech companies to gradually start engaging in. To your point, corporations in all sectors always do what makes the most economic sense, even if it means building internet censorship tech, dumping hazardous chemicals into the water supply, etc.

As a society which (hopefully) would like to have some sort of moral compass, how do we prevent large companies from seeking profit even at the expense of our freedoms/health/planet? It seems to me that if the punishment for unethical behavior is economically "less" than the costs or potential losses associated with acting in a good, ethical way, companies will continue to do what we're seeing them do now. My intuition is that capitalism (in its current Western incarnation) can't function without some strict controls to protect what our societies value most.

Or do we simply value profit over everything else? If so, that's kind of depressing, but I get the sense that most people don't think this way.


The US government? I find it hard to believe they would intervene with china unless they plan on using it as leverage in order to gain economic standing. However, seeing as google is already censoring content via prioritizing search results with favored websites before relevant websites and since the government is always happy to find new outlets to get personal information from its own and foreign citizens. I don't see this as being stoppable unless you make your own company and start competing with Google.

The tech sector has always been ripe for co-operatives and profit sharing. Politically speaking libertarian attitudes were the popular norm in most tech culture but now small co-opts could become the next phase for many small tech companies. That could be a first small step.

I think it's always a combination of factors. Unless you subscribe to the theory that every CEO is 100% sociopath.

There's the consideration of true values. Then there's the consideration of lost opportunities from following those values. Then there's the cold consideration of the money gained from PR boost due to following the values. Then there's the "game theory" consideration of altogether dying in the marketplace if your competition don't act on those values.

I think the best thing for all of us to do on the outside is to create a culture where every company benefits from the PR boost. Google executives are one concentrated interest, separate from Microsoft, etc. The employees, I reckon, are not as financially motivated (i.e. don't stand to lose _as_ much individually) and can afford to advocate their values. It seems to me (I'll phrase it conservatively, since I'm just throwing out ideas here) that Google employees should make friends with Microsoft employees to make sure they raise the same noise on their end as well. Make it okay for each company to gain (monetarily or otherwise) from good PR, and make it less profitable for all of their competitors to sell out.

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