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I’m Chinese, Google’s DragonFly Must Go On (github.com)
129 points by ithinco on Dec 1, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments



> If Google were in China, perhaps the young man named Wei Zesi would not have died as a result of deadly fake medical advertisements searched through Baidu.

As the wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Wei_Zexi makes clear, those medical adverts were not fake. They were certainly deadly. They were also run by the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps. A state owned hospital. On what basis would google refuse to run that ad? Barring them from advertising seems like a great way to get a midnight knock at your door from the Beijing Armed Police Corp. And it's not like an algorithm will easily tell when medical claims are is truthful.

Would the auction algorithm produced a different ad result? Google's pay per click model maximizes revenue per ad shown, not human welfare; presumably the hospital willing to pay to get to the top of the searches is willing to go the extra mile to improve click thru rates.

Would marking it more clearly as an ad have made a difference? Google is already walking down that slippery slope; today Google places ads directly in line with search results. If Baidu is able to legally get away without even marking ads, it seems like Google is an A/B test away from a very profitable locale specific change to the UI.


Just come here, not to debate, but to add some background information about its public perception.

The Cancer Center and other departments of the Second Hospital of the Armed Police Beijing Corps were actually outsourced to the operation of the Putian network, the latter has a long history of false advertising of various ineffective medical treatments.

Basically, the general public believes Baidu was the largest supporter of the Putian network, and Putian hospitals may have contributed 12 billion RMB (1.8 billion US$) of the total of 26 billion RMB (4 billion US$) in ad revenues reported by Baidu that year.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/the-putian-conne...

https://www.whatsonweibo.com/behind-baidu-scandal-baidu-puti...


If we counted the number of people the PRC has killed by finding them through their "great" firewall, does the OP think that number is less than bad baidu medical ads?

I don't understand is the false equivalency between baidu's advertising and PRC's notorious human rights violations.

This post doesn't address any of the concerns brought up by the original letter they decry?


It’s a ridiculous rhetorical rebuttal without ever mentioning the dystopian motives of the entire Chinese tech industry puppetted under the Xi Jingpin’s vision. From Baidu to Tencent, everyone is in bed with the government.

Weak arguments are covered up with emotional rhetoric about deaths and such.

Please do not respond to my comment about “what about US Federal agencies in bed with the FANG”. Before we discuss, China is not even on the same ballgame. It’s not the same sport. It’s like going to another planet where your entire identity is linked to your cellphone number. I visit China multiple times a year and without WeChat, I can’t do anything. On HN, I often see comparisons to the US and the west but it’s just shifting the discussion somewhere else. US has democracy, open and fair justice system and I can sue the government, I have Miranda rights, freedom of speech and the whole American dream enchilada. It’s still alive despite of the shit president and it is here to stay. Negativity against the US is rampant here.


If they're in China they probably don't have the luxury of bringing up those points in their argument.


You like using Bing when you visit? Don't ever miss YouTube? Or checking your Gmail without a VPN?


I have my company’s VPN access so it’s not a problem for me. But contacting people is really difficult without WeChat. You could do EVERYTHING with this one app.


Your argument would make sense if ending DragonFly would end the Great Firewall too.


They were making utilitarian arguments, notably the famous trolley one.

Just because you can't stop something, doesn't mean you should actively support it.


Yes, they were making utilitarian arguments about the welfare of the people affected.

It's awfully easy to stand on principle when it's the other guy who sacrifices for it.


> It's awfully easy to stand on principle when it's the other guy who sacrifices for it.

Is the other guy me? or are the other guys those killed by the PRC?

You would sacrifice them to search Google, I would sacrifice your Google searches for them. We do not have to agree.


Why is having Google in China going to get anyone killed? If Google isn’t there they’ll just search Baidu or Bing and whatever was going to happen is still going to happen. It’s just another search engine, albeit a much better one than what’s already there.


> Why is having Google in China going to get anyone killed?

That's not the point. People already DID get killed, and ARE getting killed. Millions and millions of them. Totalitarianism is the fact on the table. That's not just "another market", and the benefit to China gained by Western complicity in it, is nothing compared to the damage we are doing to ourselves.

I doubt you understand how important this is and how deep it runs. We're not going to throw millenia of evolution of thought, and ultimately thought and human agency itself away, just to make not resisting more comfortable for "the large chunk of non-dissidents" or Silicon Valley or whoever may come.

> The older dictators fell because they could never supply their subjects with enough bread, enough cir­cuses, enough miracles and mysteries. Nor did they possess a really effective system of mind-manipulation. In the past, free-thinkers and revolutionaries were often the products of the most piously orthodox educa­tion. This is not surprising. The methods employed by orthodox educators were and still are extremely inefficient. Under a scientific dictator education will really work -- with the result that most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution. There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown.

> Meanwhile there is still some freedom left in the world. Many young people, it is true, do not seem to value freedom. But some of us still believe that, with­out freedom, human beings cannot become fully hu­man and that freedom is therefore supremely valuable. Perhaps the forces that now menace freedom are too strong to be resisted for very long. It is still our duty to do whatever we can to resist them.

-- Aldous Huxley, "Brave New World Revisited" (1958)


And what about the false equivalency between PRC's human right violation and Dragonfly?


Well that's an interesting discussion, but not one the OP is having.

Google employees post letter saying DragonFly enables human rights violations.

OP posts letter saying DragonFly creates an alternative to baidu's fraudulent and dangerous advertising, and that this is a reasonable response to the letter.

It sounds like the op thinks that Baidu's advertising and human rights violations are either related, or somehow interact.


The objections to DragenFly are not about what is best for the Chinese citizen.

This is not the concern in the signed letter. It is also not related to any of the core concerns from commenters here, as far as I can tell.

Yet somehow, many people are feeding the idea that the primary question is a cost-benefit analysis from the perspective of a person living in China. Of course, access to a pseudo-Google in China would be better for people there. It would be another option, and probably a tad closer to uncensored.

The concerns are simply not about that.

This is about setting a precedent of a company in a liberal democracy bending to the wishes of the government of a non-liberal-democracy.

The concern is that this compromise is not only something that happens in China, but also something that happens next in UK and then in Germany, and then in the US.

The concern is that any society with an "unfiltered" Google becomes a thing of the past. The concern is that the largest organization in the world controlling access to information begins "partnering" with governments and we step into an accelerated path towards disinformation.


Nevertheless, as OP mentioned, the decision concerns Chinese citizens, and it is always useful to obtain input from stakeholders.


I don't think they care much. Baidu works, and if they are dissatisfied there is Bing. Yet Baidu is the market leader there. Why would they switch to Google?


Why did I care when I discovered Infoseek, Excite, Open Directory Project, Dogpile (I'm fuzzy on the exact order) and eventually Google? Do you remember your feeling when playing with a new search engine? Differences in access to information are real and quickly felt.

(disclaimer: ex-googler. In words Google itself likes to use, because long-tail search matters. Also I should mention I now default to DuckDuckGo, on privacy grounds, but it's not a step up just "surprisingly not bad", I frequently repeat a search in Google and get more results)


Thats the point! We in the west want to keep our freedom. If Google would censor there search for china every other dictatorship in the world would want there own censored one. Maybe Germany wants swastikas and Hitler censored. China should become more liberal but this won't happen because then the Chinese leadership will fall and a revolution would happen and together with that North Korea would fall and leave Russia as the last communist country.


To be clear, fake and illegal medical advertisements make their way onto Google, too:

https://www.wired.com/2013/05/google-pharma-whitaker-sting/

(This is only the most infamous case from the past 10 years)

So if the post author's only argument for DragonFly is that China needs Google because China needs a search engine that doesn't promote fake meds, it's a false premise.

EDIT: Changed 5->10 years since the case in question was from 2009-2011. Also, as another comment points out[1], a Chinese state medical clinic was responsible for the Baidu fake medicine incident. It's highly unlikely that Google would turn down a government agency from its ad buying. So again, not seeing a huge difference between Baidu and Dragonfly, other than the quality of their results (but not their ethics).

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18574669


I'm really glad someone with a Chinese background finally spoke up about this. If you look at the anti-DragonFly post, you'll notice that there are almost no Chinese names on the list. Every Chinese citizen I've talked to is pro-DragonFly, myself included.

DragonFly will probably be the largest step to democratizing information that has ever happened for the Chinese people. It's a huge step forward. It won't change the fact that the Chinese government already does censor information, and that it does spy on its people. This isn't new. DragonFly will just provides Chinese citizens so much more information that we can't get otherwise without resorting to VPNs.

For the people in China who aren't dissidents (a large chunk of the 1.4 billion, or 4x the population of the US), this will be an entirely positive change that could save millions of lives.

Please, please launch DragonFly.


> Every Chinese citizen I've talked to is pro-DragonFly, myself included.

You might want to talk to some Hong Kong people, or even people from Taiwan, if they are still considered "Chinese" for this matter.

A real concern for HK/Taiwan people is, what if CCP demands Google to turn over HK/Taiwan user's data? Do you think Google can push back by saying "nah we don't think HK/Taiwan is part of China"?

Also as a Chinese myself, I'm in the "meh" camp on Dragonfly. Baidu does have its own problems, but for Chinese people Bing has always been there. How much difference does it make? For Google, if launching Dragonfly would damage the "Google" brand's image and reputation, is Dragonfly going to bring enough benefit to offset such damage?


> this will be an entirely positive change that could save millions of lives

A censored search engine will save millions of lives? Reads like propaganda to me.

> DragonFly will probably be the largest step to democratizing information

Democratized information... with Chinese characteristics.


> A censored search engine will save millions of lives? Reads like propaganda to me.

What in the world does censorship have to do with this? Information will strictly be more available by having Google in China, than not having Google in China. Google is orders of magnitude better than Baidu, which makes not even a superficial attempt at hiding that it censors and reranks information. DragonFly will simply not allow you to search censored phrases, rather than selectively remove results.

As to why I think it’ll save lives. Let me give you an example. I once tried to search for the US consulate in China on Baidu. The phrase for that is “美国领事馆”. Try it on Baidu. When I last searched it, the website for the consulate was on the 3rd or 4th page, the address was nowhere on Baidu, and the rest of the results were travel agencies trying to make a profit.

Now think about searching for “suicide” or “depression”. Still think it won’t save lives?

Not everything has to be about censorship and human rights with China. Partial information can still save lives.

> Democratized information... with Chinese characterisitics.

Yes, what’s your point? America was built on democracy with a nice twist of slavery.


> As to why I think it’ll save lives. Let me give you an example. I once tried to search for the US consulate in China on Baidu. The phrase for that is “美国领事馆”. Try it on Baidu. When I last searched it, the website for the consulate was on the 3rd or 4th page, the address was nowhere on Baidu, and the rest of the results were travel agencies trying to make a profit.

I'm not in China but the Baidu show the related information (ustraveldocs.com) on the first result. To search "suicide", you've got the telephone for help.

I don't know why you selected “美国领事馆” while similar issues happened in China. Google's DragonFly will block it too. If you search "香港政府", you get the best on the first result.

> and the rest of the results were travel agencies trying to make a profit.

It's smarter than Google! People in China are trying to escape at the time. Baidu shows a more accurate result base on the trend. It works like the Yahoo or newspaper's homepage.


I fully understand this and would have been Pro DragonFly a few years before. Now that I have learned more, I am against it. And this post is possibly a ploy from China.

Why should Google join China, give away its IP one way or another, let CCP exerts its force on more Western Companies, and further strengthen its power in China and the world?

Does anyone has the slightly idea what the hell is going on inside CCP's mind? I wish the WTO had a new terms for anyone joining, the nation must allow democratic election after joining WTO. There is no such thing as free market in a one party system.

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.


> Every Chinese citizen I've talked to is pro-DragonFly, myself included.

Why would a Chinese citizen who was anti-dragonfly out themselves?


Because these said people don't live in the fictional mental construct you've created where they're cowering in a corner, shivering in fear of saying the wrong thing and waiting for the white man to swoop in and defeat their oppressor.

They're just normal people living normal lives. They have 2 legs and 2 arms, eat ice cream, complain about traffic and politics in person and online the same you and I do. Google is a nice to have but at the end of the day, not that important.


True, I was more thinking about the bit I should have quoted instead, about how few Chinese named Google engineers signed. That's a much more public statement with negligible upside.


China suppresses free speech, yes. But it doesn’t go so far as citizens being terrified of being known as someone wanting Google to enter China. It’s not like 1984. The secret police isn’t going to come stick you and your family in an underground prison for wanting Google.

People are pretty open about what they want. Google is something many people (who know about it) want.

FWIW, yes, I could be propaganda. But if I were, I’d be doing something much more useful with my time than browsing hackernews and trying to argue against opinionated software engineers who don’t want to be convinced otherwise.


> The secret police isn’t going to come stick you and your family in an underground prison for wanting Google.

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with what happened recently to bookstore owners in Hong Kong. Or people who "stir up trouble" by criticizing the government on WeChat.

Funny that you mention underground prisons, because they are a thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_jails


Chinese people criticize the government/party all the time when talking to each other. What even was your perception of the situation that would lead you to talk about "outing" lmao


what stops them from using Bing?

you are naive if you think crippled Google would change anything, lived in China plenty years to know better, majority would be ambivalent and it would be used only by people who wanna look cool


They could use Bing. From personal experience Google is much better. I make the assumption that crippled Google will still be much better than crippled Bing.

I have no illusions about Google creating social change. That's not the point. Google will make it much easier than Bing to find information you need. It is more convenient. It could save lives in the right situations. That's enough of a sell for me.


from personal experience Google it's absolutely useless for Chinese language search, nobody stopping them providing good search outside China, since they can't do even that uncensored i have zero belief their censored project would be any better


The problem with this logic is that it treats the malevolent dictatorship as a given. If you believe that there will be concentration camps, dissident crackdowns, and absolute censorship in China forever, this is a reasonable position.

If you believe there is any hope for the Chinese people, foreign entities should focus on aiding the regime and the political status quo as little as possible, hypothetical ad business improvements or not.


1. No, but you have a much better chance of actually bringing change if you're in there, than if you leave it on its own.

2. Almost every single Chinese citizen I've spoken to is for this project. I find it a bit ironic that all the opposition is from Westerners who love to feel outraged in their place and assume they know what's best for others. Why not let them decide what they want for their country, rather than shoving your ideals on them? You're not the one who has to live without dozens of Google services that only have shitty alternatives, they are.


> I find it a bit ironic that all the opposition is from Westerners who love to feel outraged [...] Why not let them decide what they want for their country, rather than shoving your ideals on them?

I don't think you understand what this debate is about. This isn't about what Chinese citizens want. This is the rest of the developed world standing up and saying they don't want to be involved in aiding an oppressive regime. China doesn't get to hold the wellbeing of the citizens it's oppressing as a bargaining chip here.

If chinese citizens are worse off for it, they should be looking to make their government more like the west rather than making baseless pleas for the west to become more like China. Ultimately this is the heart of the debate. Is China's market size big enough to force western tech to bow down to unethical practices for some sweet $, or is the western tech industry big enough to send a loud and clear message that the Chinese regime is not acceptable to the developed world.


>This is the rest of the developed world standing up and saying they don't want to be involved in aiding an oppressive regime.

By the rest of the developed world you mean a small and loud subset of Google employees?


> Why not let them decide what they want for their country, rather than shoving your ideals on them?

This assumes most of their citizens have all the information about the implications, which is very unlikely, for the very reason everyone is wary of Google re-entering China.


Chinese citizens are well aware of the censorship practices of their government. They are aware of the bargain that Google must strike.


Are they aware of the consequences of that bargain? Are they aware of their own biases regarding the assessment of those consequences?


> Almost every single Chinese citizen I've spoken to is for this project.

Obviously. The people who aren't would be crazy to confide in you.

> Why not let them decide what they want for their country

So you would have been okay with Hitler "just" murdering Jews, not starting a war, as long as most Germans would have been for it? How come we think of it as Jews and others having been murdered, instead of Germans just doing something "to themselves"? Or hey, even during the war, wasn't that just Europeans doing something? Why not simply go all the way, to carbon-based life forms, or simply declaring everything the same, because "it's all just physics and chemistry"?

And whose country was Germany during that time, would you say -- that of the Nazis and their supporters, or the Germans in exile and in resistance, the ones in graves?

Just calling something "ideals" (because you don't dare to acknowledge the principles, while you reap their fruits no less) and "outrage", that's simply nothing but rich, considering your being "outraged" over the ideal of non-intervention, of "not judging" or "having to live without Google services" (just wow).

> You're not the one who has to live without dozens of Google services that only have shitty alternatives, they are.

So you do understand the logic, you simply only apply it to petty things, not murder.

https://exhibitions.ushmm.org/americans-and-the-holocaust/ma...

"Murder is not government". Now there's a thought. By the same token, looking away is not being a citizen.

Neither you, nor the people you have spoken to, got to taste the wrong end of the gun of totalitarianism. If you think only of yourself, nobody should think of you.


You're presuming a dictatorship is easy to bring down, the Syrian Civil War is still fighting on but no-one cares anymore about their attempts for democracy.

Its not even big news on the media anymore, at this point the fighting is just a free-for-all.

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


Not only that, but to the extent practical they should support subverting it (ie. making their sites available via hidden services, etc.). Would we likeiwse argue that working with the Nazi government (with the exception of red cross type relief aid and ceasefires) was acceptable for American businesses?


If you see no difference between the Chinese government and the Nazi government, you should perhaps consider advocating for war (unless you are a non-interventionist)


China can allow access to Google whenever they choose.


But they won't. And that has real consequences for actual people. Google has the option to improve those people's lives by going there, even if it means bowing to the demands of Chinese censors. Nothing is gained by staying out. China isn't going to magically change its opinion on censorship because Google won't enter their market. The objections of the Google employees are shortsighted and naive.


Funny, I'd say it is your objections that are shortsighted and naive: caving to the demands of an authoritarian dictatorship steadily growing in influence.


Ok. Play your tape all the way through. What are the negative consequences of doing so? The positive consequences of entering the Chinese market are obvious.


The negative consequences are that Google are the best at cataloguing and searching information. This expertise can now be leveraged by the Chinese government to search for dissidents.

Edit: Do you honestly think that once the Chinese government has some leverage over Google (because they now make a portion of their revenue from the Chinese market) they wouldn't use that to get additional concessions?

As an example, Chinese citizens can still access Google if they can connect through an outside VPN. Google may be able to identify such users through cookies, reCaptcha or another Google tracking technology. What if China asked Google to censor results for Chinese users using VPNs too?


There’s a big difference between Google making data available to the Chinese government, which is what Dragonfly would do, and Google making their expertise at cataloguing and searching information available to the Chinese government, which has not been reported.

The only information that the Chinese government would have access to from Google is info they already have from Baidu.


Dragonfly catalogues and indexes searches for dissident topics, linking them to the searcher's phone number. Literally a search engine for dissidents.


And that's different from Baidu in what way?

If it's not worse than the status quo, then it's not a negative impact of bringing Dragonfly to China.


How do you know that the number of atrocities committed in the future by the Chinese state is independent of Google being there or not?

Maybe people unaware of DragonFly will try riskier search phrases on Google than on Baidu.

And the problem gets especially bad if they find whatever they were looking for. As in this case the state has evidence on consuming "politically dangerous" material. (Not that they can't fake it otherwise.)


Do you have reason to believe that exceeds their current capabilities?


Sure, and right now Baidu is doing that for them. Baidu is likely not as good at it as Google, but Baidu is also much more likely to comply willingly. Google can drag their feet and build low quality censorship/anti-privacy tools for the Chinese government, and simply say "sorry it's the best we could do".

By abdicating that responsibility to an actor like Baidu, who is much more aligned with the Chinese government, they make the problem worse. By agreeing to their demands, and then doing the shittiest job possible of complying, they actually have a lot more power and influence.

> Edit: Do you honestly think that once the Chinese government has some leverage over Google (because they now make a portion of their revenue from the Chinese market) they wouldn't use that to get additional concessions?

Yes, but that's a two way street. Chinese citizens will come to rely on Google search, and will be unhappy when its taken away. So both sides become enmeshed.


> Baidu is likely not as good at it as Google, but Baidu is also much more likely to comply willingly. Google can drag their feet and build low quality censorship/anti-privacy tools for the Chinese government, and simply say "sorry it's the best we could do".

This is an argument akin to "I'm joining the system so I can change it from the inside".

This can work, but you need leverage. What leverage would Google have over the Chinese government in this case? Say what you will about the current Chinese leadership, but they're not stupid and they know what Google is capable of. If they think Google is dragging they're feet why wouldn't they just block Google again?


Or just...i'm joining the system, and i'm going to do whatever I can to help it as little as possible, while providing a valuable service to its people.


Sure, that's the known positive. But this makes Google 1984 compatible in other regimes too. And with the capability there it's a matter of configuration to run it in other countries too. Proliferation of totalitarian machinery is a worry.


> Google can drag their feet and build low quality censorship/anti-privacy tools for the Chinese government, and simply say "sorry it's the best we could do".

Why would they? They're out to make money and they'll make much less money by making enemies with the CCP.

We can also look at history: American companies have no problem doing business with authoritarian and repressive regimes. Sometimes they even prop them up.


>By abdicating that responsibility to an actor like Baidu, who is much more aligned with the Chinese government,

And how can companies establish a major presence in China unless they are aligned with the Chinese government?


What part of Google's behavior thus far makes you think they'll drag their feet?


You mean, other than the fact that they pulled out in the first place for ethical reasons? And that it's long been a contentious issue among the founders of the company, again, for ethical reasons? I'm not sure I can take this question seriously.


Regardless of which perspective you choose, moral actions which sputter into no moral results are just morally disappointing.


The fact that a giant like Baidu can get away with showing false adverts indicates a deeper problem than can be solved just by Google going to China.


Nothing is gained by not staying out (aside from money in Google's pockets, of course). I'm not sure how Google's expected to "improve those people's lives" while still being subject to China's rules around censorship and surveillance.


> Nothing is gained by staying out

If a lot of companies decided to refuse to follow China's oppressive methods (and thus making life slightly worse for some of the people of china) it might slightly push the residents of china towards revolting and gaining more freedom.

This is all theoretical of course, I doubt that anything like that could happen in real life.


Revolution would kill tens of millions, minimum.

Compared to that, continuing to enjoy the greatest rise in living standards in human history doesn't look half bad.


Ahhh yes, the 'we're in the dystopian dictatorship so deep that it's too big to fail' argument.

There's always a human cost to revolutions. That doesn't justify supporting and perpetuating one of the biggest threats to freedom in the entire world.


We invaded Iraq under that logic..


A misapplication of logic (i.e the claim that the U.S. invaded to instill "freedom and democracy") does not invalidate the logic (i.e fighting for freedom is a good thing).


That failure was not because the logic was bad.


>Compared to that, continuing to enjoy the greatest rise in living standards in human history doesn't look half bad.

This is extremely poor reasoning. An overall "bad" thing does not become "good" or justified because it has improved conditions in some way. By the very same token, slavery has both good sides and bad sides, and by your dismissive style, we ought not to consider the bad sides - the slaves should continue to enjoy the greatest rise in living standards (having food and shelter provided by the master) and the slave owners should continue to enjoy the greatest rise in profits in human history - isn't it clear that everyone wins?

What is even more ironic is that for China, a state which claims to be Communist, is being supported by your argument which was specifically repudiated by Marx in criticizing Proudhon for exactly the view you are expounding!

>The good side and the bad side, the advantages and drawbacks, taken together form for M. Proudhon the contradiction in every economic category. The problem to be solved: to keep the good side, while eliminating the bad. Slavery is an economic category like any other. Thus it also has its two sides. Let us leave alone the bad side and talk about the good side of slavery. Needless to say, we are dealing only with direct slavery, with Negro slavery in Surinam, in Brazil, in the Southern States of North America.

>Without slavery North America, the most progressive of countries, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipe North America off the map of the world, and you will have anarchy – the complete decay of modern commerce and civilization. Cause slavery to disappear and you will have wiped America off the map of nations.

>What would M. Proudhon do to save slavery? He would formulate the problem thus: preserve the good side of this economic category, eliminate the bad.

I will also note that your immediate dismissal of revolution is historically shaky at best, as great advances in history and freedom were gained from revolution - of both country (France, America, many wars of independence, Germany) and economy (the bourgeois revolution in means of production). Just remember this:

>If money, according to Augier, “comes into the world with a congenital blood-stain on one cheek,” capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.


>? his is extremely poor reasoning. An overall "bad" thing does not become "good" or justified because it has improved conditions in some way. By the very same token, slavery has both good sides and bad sides, and by your dismissive style, we ought not to consider the bad sides - the slaves should continue to enjoy the greatest rise in living standards (having food and shelter provided by the master) and the slave owners should continue to enjoy the greatest rise in profits in human history - isn't it clear that everyone wins?

It's pretty clear that the question is whether a thing is good on balance. We all agree slavery is bad on balance. China, on the other hand, who has authoritarian policies, but has simultaneously lifted billions of people out of extreme poverty, is much more mixed.


I have to say that "authoritarian policies" is a deceptively weak phrase for the stuff China is doing lately.

In any case this reasoning is flawed -- the correct analogy to "China has authoritarian policies but pulled billions of people out of poverty" would be "the United States had slavery but populated a continent while creating wealth for millions of people". So the story of slavery is "much more mixed".


> I have to say that "authoritarian policies" is a deceptively weak phrase for the stuff China is doing lately.

Sure, call it what you want. I'm no fan of the Chinese government.

> In any case this reasoning is flawed -- the correct analogy to "China has authoritarian policies but pulled billions of people out of poverty" would be "the United States had slavery but populated a continent while creating wealth for millions of people". So the story of slavery is "much more mixed".

So, should the cotton gin makers of their day not have sold cotton gins to the plantation owners? What good would that have done?


The analogy is getting out of hand, but the question here is more like making ankle trackers for the slaves than making cotton gins.


Except that there is already a company making ankle trackers and selling it to the slave owners, but their ankle trackers chafe the slaves ankles and Google's do not. That is my point.


As always, the most intolerant wins. For good or for bad.


I think this is a very cynical view of history. Good things do happen, with sufficient resistance. Civil Rights being a prime example.


That’s the “for good” part of the parent comment. Civil rights protestors were unwilling to tolerate / were intolerant of the status quo situation, to the point of being willing to be attacked with fire hoses and dogs.


China you mean the Chinese government, which is not the same as the Chinese people.


No matter whether you agree with them or not, asking someone to sear their conscience is one of if not the most corrosive things you can do to them and to humanity at large. The author probably didn't mean it quite that way, but that's what this post is asking of googlers.

Don't do that.


Google pulling out was one of the best and last of Google's "Do No Evil" opus. Whatever the true reasons, with that decision, you can say something about Google as a company and you can say something about China as a country. One example is all that is needed sometimes. Without that, you get moral equivalency and all the attendant devolution.


Is it though? I definitely disagree with the author, but I don't know if they're asking really to sear conscience as much as offer the perspective of their own conscience. They are not asking googlers to be ok with everything China does but are arguing that Google removing itself from China causes more harm than good. They're wrong (I think) but, its perfectly reasonable to make such an argument if one believes it.


These Googlers' conscience is telling them that collaborating with a repressive regime's repression is wrong. OP is asking them to collaborate anyway. QED, honestly. I know the intent is what you've outlined, but I'm saying that's not as important, here anyway, as the conscience angle.


This is probably a mismatch of ethics. Some are deontologists (say no to collaboration on principles) some are consequentialist/utilitarian.

However it's hard to assess the long term effect of this on Google and other Google users. That's the real question.

Okay Google builds DragonSpy. Okay, please make it work for Vietnam too says Vietnam, then me too says Putin, Venezuela, Iran, Turkey and so on.

As long as dictators are forced to block it wholesale, people have a signal. (Even if it is propagandized and spin as a good thing, let's say for economic protectionism.) When dictators can fish for their enemies, people have a problem.


It's more than that. Deliberately creating the environment where people ignore their conscience is always a huge mistake, beyond the particular issue. As a species, we need to be paying more attention to our consciences, not less.


Terrible argument. Surely for every influential decision one can find somebody who was influenced negatively, especially if one wants to go deeply enough in hypotheticals. The question is not whether having competition between search engines is good (we know it is), it is whether Google should participate in a sham competition controlled by Chinese government, on conditions set by them and under their supervision, and thus participate - directly or indirectly - in many atrocities this government perpetrates. Serving better ads sounds like a pretty weak case for this - especially as we can't even be sure it would be the case at all (it's not like Google never served ads from shady providers).


This is probably the first time I see something from a concerned Chinese citizen.

I applaud this truthfully, it also gave me an alternative view about ( why) entering the market and what some Chinese think.


Honestly every single actual Chinese citizen I've spoken too is for Dragonfly. The only people that I've seen against it are Westerners who love projecting their values and feeling outraged in the place of others.


How do you know he's not propaganda. I'm not claiming so, I'm in the middle but you seem confident otherwise.


His GitHub profile looks like just a normal guy. Maybe China keeps a bunch of GitHub accounts around and makes active commits for the purpose, and posts homework solutions while they are at it. Maybe I’m a propaganda bot.


Because he says something negative about a Chinese company.


This is essentially a hostage situation. Chinese government holds its people as hostage. If google doesn’t give in to censorship demands, people die or suffer from the lack of information.

Some people would argue that Chinese peolple dying is not our problem, and we should stick to our “principles” to force Chinese government to change. Others think that something is better than nothing; even limited information can help people there.

Sadly, this disagreement leads to the worst outcome: Chinese people are deprived from even limited information while there is insufficient pressure to force the government to change course.


wow. someone defending google and the main point is that their Advertising Business is less predatory than Baidu's?!


Well it is way less, unfortunately. Baidu seems lacks basic morals and governing. It literally killed people, if you check out the links on that github article.


The DuckDuckGo is not an option if Google is the only good search engine for you. Bing.com is working in China but the 551,615,600 peoples given up.

Yahoo Search is powered by Bing. If you looking at Hong Kong & Taiwan data. It still a quite amount of people using them. It's enough for them for their daily lives. Why not in China?

The tech person who using VPN in China. Have you ever tried to advice 551,615,600 peoples in China to use cn.bing.com?

You already have an option like DuckDuckGo that you suggested in the article.

For most people in China, Google is a luxury brand more than useful.

The remaining 250,384,400 peoples. Your first step isn't fighting for DragonFly in China but flight for Hong Kong & Taiwanese Celebrities can tell you where they from without the word "China" in the TV show.


There is argument made for trading with authoritative states when they take tiny steps towards the right direction and increasing living standards bring change themselves. Taiwan and South Korea are good examples of this kind of progress.

But as China is becoming economically more powerful and tightening up it's control at the same time. Deng Xiaoping was no means liberal, but he made changes into right direction. Xi is walking even these small moves backwards.

In the end China will have their own internet and it will be heavily censored. It's up to Chinese let Google in as Google. Not to ask Chinese version of Google.


Glad to see that Hacker News is willing to listen to the people actually affected by this decision.


I am Chinese from mainland. Everyday, I have to use Proxy/VPN to visit Google/Youtube/Wikipedia/Twitter/Facebook/Reddit... across the Great Firewall.

I can understand it, but it is shortsighted!! The main problem is not Google back to China, it's China blocks Google.

So, Google must drop the DragonFly project!


Please note, this only represents a (likely small) portion of Chinese audience. There were a lot of people opposing the idea. They initially posted their opposing view on GitHub issues so it was overwhelmed by disagreements. However, the author disabled the issues on that repo so it looks like it is the widely accepted opinion, which is not true.

Then, people start to write articles in order to show their disagreements. For example, there is one: https://github.com/CT-ABT/Also-as-a-mainland-Chinese-why-do-.... The only problem is that it does not have an English translation.


Anyone who have spent some time on the social media in China interacting with people from the IT sector would know, the petition is clearly genuine, not propaganda.

Currently, Google's launch of Dragonfly creates an interesting disagreement in public opinion. In the U.S, the opinion in the "technosphere" is overtly negative, due to its implication of supporting censorship and oppression of the general public.

But in China, the public opinion from the "technosphere" is completely the opposite. The dominate search engine, Baidu's reputation has became notorious after the death of Wei Zexi, the 21-year-old cancer patient, after finding misleading treatment information on search engine Baidu. Citizens on the social media became aware of the existence of Putian Medical Group, a special interest group in the profit-driven healthcare market for its questionable medical treatment. Baidu was believed to be the largest supporter of the multi-billion-dollar industry, they may have contributed 12 billion RMB (1.8 billion US$) to Baidu's ad revenues. (See this article for the background: https://www.whatsonweibo.com/behind-baidu-scandal-baidu-puti...)

But it's not the only scandal. Baidu is known for its predatory and invasive advertisements, including consumer support fraud, visa fraud, medical fraud. Most of the time, entering any common keyword, people are confident to say that the first three results of the search list are the ads, and highly likely to be frauds. The daily victims of these ads is likely to be hundreds, if not thousands. Baidu is doing little, if not actively supporting the false advertising.

The public opinions of the IT workers in China, in my own words, is basically: if Google is a criminal, then Baidu is a maddog. The politics is authoritative, changing it is out-of-question. Then at least you can replace a wild maddog with an ordinary megacorp, which at least has a well-defined bottomline and more or less under the public supervision of the citizens.

I don't know what to say. On one hand, censorship and oppression surely causes long-term damage, but on the other hand, the damage of victims by these frauds is also a large number. Even if I take an utilitarianist approach, then what is valued greater?

u(free from censorship and oppression) x Google's contribution?

                                           ^likely small
or

u(free from ubiquitous frauds from Baidu)?


Just think of it, to

> replace a wild maddog with an ordinary megacorp, which at least has a well-defined bottomline and more or less under the public supervision of the citizens

requires petitioning Google, not Baidu or the CCP... because that is probably easier than forming a consumer group that petitions the government to enact laws against the predatory ads Baidu has, and which they hope Google will not have (it's not like Google didn't attempt some shady shit with making sponsored results look nearly like normal results before). That's just "out of the question"

And predictably so. Because to organize like that, for something the people wanted for themselves, without being told they should want it? Yeah, right. After decades of killing dissidents en masse, the remainder of what people still are able to even consider has shrunken considerably.

Speaking of predatory and invasive:

http://www.hoteliermiddleeast.com/33151-marriott-employee-fi...

The CCP is already treating other people in free countries like they're treating their "own" people. Yes, and Western companies play along, and I don't blame China for that at all -- but it also shows how the CCP is ticking, for those that need examples.

Totalitarianism is not just censorship and oppression. That's like saying war is hitting people and loading things on trucks. The "total" in its name means something, after all, it's not a self-given label.

> We don't know a perfected totalitarian power structure, because it would require the control of the whole planet.

-- Hannah Arendt

China never opened up to the West in any meaningful way. I mean, if a murderer invites you to dinner, with the implicit understanding that you're not to talk about the murders -- that's using someone as fig leaf, that's rubbing it in, not opening up. Meanwhile, the guy asks questions, and makes sure to tell everybody you were over to dinner. China is opening the West up to it.

I'm not saying the West is just great and perfect, with the wars of aggression and whatnot. But I'm vocal about that as well, and just because your arm is burning, why would you set your leg on fire, too?

If anything, the opposite would make sense. Because our governments are so corrupt, because we have this push for mass surveillance and militarization, we cannot afford to get in bed even more deeply with a totalitarian regime.

> Retain the power of speech no matter what other power you may lose. If you can take this course, and in so far as you take it, you will bless this country. In so far as you depart from this course, you become dampers, mutes, and hooded executioners.

-- John J. Chapman

I want to be able to at least say I might have been deserving to live in a better world, even if I couldn't do enough to make this one that world. I want to remain in the company of thinkers and humans. Nothing more, nothing less. If humanity turns the world into an eternal torture chamber, I do not want to be guilty of having belittled or supported that. And if people think that's hyperbole, I certainly don't want to be guilty of it just so people wouldn't roll their eyes at me. I'm responsible for what I see and know, not for what others see and know. I compare what I have against the loss I see, not the loss others don't see because they were raised without it in the first place.

Even the idea of weighing normalization of and cooperation with totalitarianism against "online frauds" is, well, we live in completely different worlds.

> Even if I take an utilitarianist approach

The "even" implies that even then, it would come up the same, but your "formula" seems to show the opposite, that Google's contribution is "likely small", while fraud is "a lot". Like, I guess that is counted in units, eg. one murder vs. one fake viagra pill, so of course 5 murders are not easy to weigh against 50000 people defrauded with fake viagra pills... am I getting this correctly?

Since "surely causes long-term damage" also struck me as rather cold, while kinda giving lip service to not being cold, it occured to me that reading it as "cold", the "even" makes sense. Reading it as a cold description of something that is NOT meant to be belittled, the "even" does not.

But even this argument is only possible on the backdrop of Chinese citizens fixing their own search engines, even though they ALL seem to hate it and should have a lot of power, being "out of the question".


You must not use "Must", just let DragonFly die, use true google or stick with Baidu, in the meantime feel grateful that github.com is still accessible.


Github.com has and likely will continue to be blocked in China whenever they need to censor certain projects or discussion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_GitHub#China


So your solution to the Chinese people that wants alternative is to just pray? There is no easy way to "use true google", so not really an option. The situation is mostly the government's fault, the people just want options, any options would be better than nothing.


> The situation is mostly the government's fault, the people just want options, any options would be better than nothing.

Serious question, but shouldn't grievances like this be taken up with the elected/appointed officials?


The country mainly works from the top down instead of the other way around. People don't really vote, and the vote doesn't work the same way it is in the US. There are also some things no officials would like to touch at all, for fear of pissing off the party and lose a career / future. Information censorship is one of those things.

In fact most of the censorship is not enforced by written regulation, but are conducted by the website / company / media themselves for the fear of being shutdown overnight. Therefore companies differ from one another a little, and people hope in the worst form Google is still better than what's already out there.


the point is the word "Must", your government sucks, it's not Google's problem, maybe your people favored that government, all is good, but that gives you no right to mandate companies overseas to "Must" give you an option, God only helps those who helps themselves.

next time, try ask for it humbly at least.


It's bad/sad that there are over a billion people living under such censorship that github.com still being accessible is a truly worthy accomplishment.

I think it's a real concern that Github might start censoring because China is able to exert pressure on Microsoft, just look at bing.


I'm pretty sure the data DragonFly may collect is much much less than many companies in China are already collecting. The government literally knows everything about you in real time.. which hotel you are in, what websites you have visited, what messages you just sent, etc. So Google won't be able to help Chinese government anyway. On the other hand Google indeed can help the people a lot with high quality search results.


This argument is wrong on so many levels. Why deal with massive shit just because there is even more massive shit in place at the moment. Fix the root cause.


A lot of people on here presume getting rid of a dictatorship is easy and presume the Chinese people == Chinese govt., however last time I checked the Syrian Civil War is still going on and the Arab Spring is all but vanquished.

Moreover, the Tiananmen massacre happened 30 yrs ago and somewhat fresh on the memories of my parents cos they were almost part of it and in Beijing at the time.


Lots of emotion and not much reasoning addressing Amnesty's concerns. Doesn't even mention human rights in the rant.


You do not know how powerful chiense culture and money is. Also, all those new graduate even from aboard ... let us see who made new twins and rumour is that the guy may have said he can handle any unhealthy babies if the ccr5 or other area gene turned bad

And anyone sending helper

Similar to 6m Jews are gased or how many million is jailed for re-education to be killed mentally. Ok they are Jews, they are catholics, they are Muslims, they are ... we are all Hans one day and you will have to be as well.

Or using technology to monitor and control 1/5 humanity down to each and every movement. We can laugh that their AI is no good to do photo and id wrongly. We can improve I supposed.

This they-will-improve approach still do not get it. It is the soon to be no 1 economy in the world. You will be changed. The Beijing consensus will rule. You are just helping them not you them la.


A response to “We are Google employees, Google must drop DragonFly”



It's easy for us to scream "human rights" when we aren't the ones that don't have access to a platform that has changed our daily lives


wait. why would Google be any more capable of stopping ads for fraudulent medical equipment or treatments in China than Baidu is?

is the implication that somehow Google would know more about the fraudsters than Baidu does?


Baidu was/is extremely complicit in the ads, their ability to make money depended on them. When fraud makes its way on google, it’s usually because they got past a control, google isn’t active in making the ad work with paid search rankings.


I recall from your previous comments that you spent a lot of time in China. What's your take on dragonfly?


To be honest, I'm neutral. I don't think Google should ransom their sole to be in China, but them being there, even if much more censored, wouldn't be a net negative. Its kind of the same way I feel about Chinese Bing, the censorship is annoying, but in a pinch it is 100 times better than Baidu.


so judging by logic of this article we should never do embargo on let's say north Korea because majority of population will suffer as result?


How does government accountability sound like in China?


Awesome


This has to be a spy or propaganda machine.


I'm Chinese too, I lived in China. The DragonFly must DROP immediately!! What I'm going to say represents a certain amount of Chinese people. There are many alternatives in China, such as Bing, Sogou or 360. Why are you so obsessed with Baidu when you claimed that you're suffering? That doesn't make any sense. Those people you claimed as victims of Baidu will not use Google even if google enters China, because of the same reason they don't use Bing or Sogou. On the opposite, dragonfly will affect current Chinese users, they may be trapped in censored version of Google. Using google is already hard in China, please don't make it harder! I wrote the same comment in the GitHub but they deleted it, because Chinese culture is always allergic to different ideas. They don't want our voice be heard and they claimed all Chinese citizens are pro-dragonfly. That's a liar! And that's also the reason why we need neutral Google. Google is the only organisation that stands against Chinese censorship, most of Chinese people respect that. We will remember. If Google wants to make more profit on DragonFly from Chinese, we also respect that. Since Google is a commercial company after all, not a charity. But don't claimed it as a noble cause because it makes us sick. If any one in China stand against GFW, they should stand against dragonfly, it's a humiliation for all Chinese people.




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