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I Quit Google Over Its Censored Chinese Search Engine (theintercept.com)
319 points by evo_9 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 250 comments






Yes. The provided article links to that earlier one. The biggest difference is that this article is written directly by the former employee in question instead of by a journalist. He also says a small number of additional things.

If you have "Google Engineer" on your resume, quitting your job and finding another is a much simpler task than for 99% of the rest of the world. This guy? He can quit and he'll be fine. He can walk into any dev shop in Toronto and we'd take him- maybe not at Google salary rates, but close.

Now consider the rest of the world. The large majority of people for whom quitting for moral/ethical reasons means a significant risk of your kids going hungry. They can't just quit without something else lined up ahead of time. When you're precariously employed (and a growing percentage of the world is) you can't take that kind of a risk even if you work for the devil himself.

So given this dichotomy between employees, you would think that there would be more than just a handful of Googlers quitting for ethical reasons over Dragonfly. But there aren't. The sad truth is, the thought of making just that little bit less money per year at another company (but still more than enough to live well), the thought of losing that status symbol of "Googler", that's enough that they're willing to accept that their work will support suppression of human rights.

Instead, they'll find a mental justification for why it's okay. That's far easier. Look, Sundar Pichai has done a wonderful job of it.

And so that is why Google won't stop. Because there's no reason to. They won't lose many employees. They're dominant enough that they won't lose customers. They'll be just fine.


Or alternatively, the employees have reasoned through the benefits and potential negatives of doing business in mainland China and have concluded that the benefits outweigh the negatives. How, exactly, does Dragonfly make the world a worse place? Sure, I'm opposed to censorship or policing citizens' interests. But there's no real indication that the censorship or surveillance is any worse than the existing search engines present in China. As far as that front is concerned, Google in China would be no worse than the status quo.

The potential benefits are substantial. Google could be the first big tech player to break into what is usually seen as a walled off market. Over time economic ties could bring the countries closer together, and reduce the likelihood of conflict (this is the original rationale behind the EU, for example). As far a I can see, Dragonfly is not any worse than the status quo, and had potential benefits - and this is speaking from someone who had no incentive to see Google succeed. I don't work there nor do I own any stocks in the company.


> does Dragonfly make the world a worse place?

Yes. It normalizes suppressing political speech that disagrees with the incumbent power. That flies in the face of values democracies hold dear. "Someone else would do it" isn't a valid excuse. If you're doing it, you're complicit. (Also, Google will do it better than almost anyone else. That a respected American technology giant will work with China's censorship regime gives the institution legitimacy.)


The difference is that impact of normalizing behavior is completely speculative, but search is a real product that can benefit people. Any business with China normalizes their suppression, but I doubt that the people who oppose Dragonfly have a problem with how many of their parts in their smartphone were sourced from China. Conveniently, Dragonfly doesn't offer anything to Americans, so that just crosses the line of what's "evil."

> Dragonfly doesn't offer anything to Americans

Precedent matters. Google having built a censored search engine for China makes it harder to say "no" to Saudi Arabia, Russia, Poland, France or even the American government. Apple understood this when they refused to build a cracking tool for the San Bernardino shooter's phone.


The same Apple that, also famously, moved iCloud data of all its Chinese customers to servers in mainland China controlled by a Chinese company (and thus, accessible to the government)?

It's also worth reminding that Google did exit China in 2010 because of precisely these ethical concerns. Only to watch all of its competitors - Apple included - unscrupulously do business in China. It's no wonder they reconsidered their stance.


Many people would like to see America become less dependent on China's industrial base, maybe even most people.

I don't think you can say Google would do it better than almost anyone else.

I think people forget there are probably more engineers not working at Google that are better than Google engineers. Yes Google does try to hire the best, and often does.

There are tons of amazing Engineer that never applied or have no desire to work at Google.

Please also keep in mind the Google we all think of as being awesome is gone, simply because the churn rate is so high. Many of the people who were responsible for building google to it's current status simply are not working there anymore ( yes some still are, but the vast majority seem to have gone or don't care anymore )

We really need to stop acting like getting a job at Google means you are a good engineer.


Well the flaw i see in your logic is that all those awesome engineers that don't work for Google are spread all over the place. There's a special magic when you get a bunch of really good engineers working together...

Also I'm not sure where you get the idea that Google churn is higher than elsewhere or that it's grown significantly. To say those remaining don't care anymore implies there has been a dramatic attitude change, what are you basing that on?

As long as Google attracts the best(which i think they generally do) working there will be a signaling trait of a good engineer.


Last I checked most of them are in a single location -- the internet..

That being said I can just point to Linux, FreeBSD, and a bunch of other open source projects that have no real central home of operation that are comprised of teams of smart people spread all around the world who have done amazing things.

So the flaw in your logic is that we are actually spread all over the place, when we are all spread around on this rock but find our self's milliseconds away from each other.

> To say those remaining don't care anymore implies there has been a dramatic attitude change, what are you basing that on?

I am saying there is a markedly different quality of software coming out of google today than in the past. Things that flowed and worked flawless now do not. Things that were fast and clean are no longer. There have been many HN post about various things coming out of google that are not optimal and raise a lot of questions.

> As long as Google attracts the best(which i think they generally do) working there will be a signaling trait of a good engineer.

Google attracts everybody -- not just the best. Working at google only signals a trait of doing interviews well. The average tenure at google is 1.90 years, which is just about the time it takes to realize you are not cut out for the job.

You really have to start asking yourself how so many people have strings of less than 2 years at a job. At a place like google it probably takes you 1 year to even get up to speed.

I have happend to work at a company long enough to see the pattern. Mediocre employees often have a long string of short stays -- and many of them leave a path of destruction behind them.

It takes at a minimum 3 years but more like 5 years at any given company to know if the work you did was any good. Simply having a launch means nothing, the real quality shows under pressure years later.

So, for now, if Google was hiring amazing people who could do awesome things they simply would be staying there longer -- and google would be doing everything it could to ensure they did.

If you look this is a trend in SV. This is partly because the entire industry has been flooded with people who chose this line of work because it makes money, not because they had any real passion about writing software or solving hard problems.

This industry was built in the 90s when computer nerds where made fun of, and it was not cool. Then the money started flowing and it was flooded with all the wannabe software devs, because it was cool, and it made money. It was built on the type of person who knew how to program before taking their first programming class in College.


I agree, once they have done it for one country they don't have a moral standing to reject another country's request to do the same for them. At times it might not even be a request they might just say do it our way or you don't get to do business here. This is how free speech dies. Instead of hoping that sometime in future China would lift censorship for good we now have to hope other countries won't follow suite.

It's already normalized.

Every Chinese expat I've talked to is pro dragonfly, because of the exact reasons in parent comment: no new negatives, some new positives.

For some reason, nobody seems to care what they think. The anti people just pivot into demonizing the Chinese, resolving their cognitive dissonance in one nice hypernationalist stroke.


This is a bit overly simplistic, and there are many things to consider.

Let's say we agree with the premise that search censorship is bad, and we want to work to get rid of it. What is the best way to accomplish this if you are Google?

Maybe the best answer is to refuse to work with the Chinese government and not do this project. Maybe, though, the best approach is to comply and try to work within the system to change it.

I am not saying that answer is correct, either. I am just saying you can't act like the answer is cut and dry without any room for differing opinions or debate as to the best way to accomplish the goal.


The debate which you outline is not a new one. And while the two sides may seem to have comparable efficacy, it also seems that those who hold their principles strongly abhor even the thought of working on terrible products like this one. And it seems glaringly obvious that those on the "work within the system" side are rationalizing away their immoral behavior in favor of their perks, status, salary, etc, on the off chance that they "work within the system to change it".

If you're making a huge salary at Google, and you value that, and working there for x more years will net you an even huger salary, what are the chances that you start to work against it from the inside at that point, if you're not already doing it now? It ain't gonna get easier. You're not gonna become more of an outsider/breath of fresh air.


People who honestly hold strong principles are usually focused on doing whatever they can to achieve their goals. Many times the best way to do that is by working within the system.

Think of things like the Civil Rights Act... it was passed by people with conviction that worked within the system (or at least some of them worked within the system)

Were the congresspeople who pushed the law through hypocrites because they worked within a system that was horribly oppressive towards minorities?


No, but that system's intent was never to be horribly oppressive to minorities and so working within it was not contradictory to the system's values. Oppression was a byproduct of other factors (the racism and classism of individuals). Google's very existence relies on making profits, and its profits come from ads served in search (and adwords, mainly). Working to stop Google from expanding into as juicy a market as the chinese one is diametrically opposed to the goals of the system. That's why I don't find these things to be comparable.

Edit: though I do see how the "individuals" argument can be used in both directions - I'm essentially arguing that google and its ilk are fundamentally tainted by their business models, in a way that the US government never was.


I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that selling ads inherently makes you 'tainted'... it seems that your argument would apply to every business? Are you arguing that every business is inherently bad and we should work for no business?

Every business exists to make money, and China is a huge market for all of them, so wouldn't they all have the same problem?

I know some people make that argument, but it is a pretty extreme view.


Most of them don't operate at the scale that google does, or have the amount of stakeholders that google does (and therefore don't need to expand into the chinese market aggressively). And yes, an organization whos goal is to make boatloads of money _is_ fundamentally morally tainted when that goal directly conflicts with taking what we'd call ethical action.

"working within the system to change it" when its barreling in the opposite direction from the one you desire seems a highly dubious choice at best.

>How, exactly, does Dragonfly make the world a worse place

It sets the precedent of Google censoring search results for a government. Once they do it for China you don't think other countries will say "censor these results like you did for China or GTFO"?

We've recently seen leaked internal discussions by Google engineers saying they want to ban media publications they don't like. You can say they're a private company but at this point if google bans you, you effectively don't exist online


I admit to not having seen those discussions, but I doubt they show consensus within google that certain publications should be banned. In any group of people there will be some who will say they'd like to ban something, be it Hello Kitty or whatever.

Disclaimer: ex-googler


They don't need to show consensus; they simply need to show (as they have done) that there is some number of bad actors within the company with both the means and motivation to enforce their own bias on the rest of the world.

The claim I replied to is: "We've recently seen leaked internal discussions by Google engineers saying they want to ban media publications they don't like."

Individual engineers did not have the means to ban in 2013 when I was an engineer in Search Features. I seriously doubt that's changed.


Does it matter if there's consensus?

From everything we know so far, there was no consensus about Dragonfly, but it got built anyway.


If I were Google and a government told me to GTFO I would, leaving a message saying "Leader of Country, call this number when you change your mind", wait 5 mins for everyone to complain to the government, and then answer the phone

You'd be waiting more than 5 minutes. China has told lots of companies to get lost and built compelling substitutes internally. This is about Google wanting into the biggest global market in a bad way, not finally relenting to China's long term overtures.

Those other countries better have as big a market as China, or Google will choose to GTFO

Not to mention, they need an alternative to Google. Russia has Yandex, China has baidu, and everyone else has dickall.

> But there's no real indication that the censorship or surveillance is any worse than the existing search engines present in China. As far as that front is concerned, Google in China would be no worse than the status quo.

Just because some evil thing would have happened anyway, with or without your assistance, doesn't absolve you from moral responsibility for that assistance if you offer it.


> does Dragonfly make the world a worse place?

Yes. Read the open letter by Google employees[1]. One of their main concerns is how Dragonfly will be used to put people into political prison camps[2].

From the open letter by Google employees:

> Our company’s decision comes as the Chinese government is openly expanding its surveillance powers and tools of population control. Many of these rely on advanced technologies, and combine online activity, personal records, and mass monitoring to track and profile citizens. Reports are already showing who bears the cost, including Uyghurs, women’s rights advocates, and students. Providing the Chinese government with ready access to user data, as required by Chinese law, would make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses.

[1] https://medium.com/@googlersagainstdragonfly/we-are-google-e...

[2] https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/muslims-...


But again the question is:

1. Is this the case in existing Chinese search engines?

2. If yes, Do you have evidence to suggest that Google's Chinese search engine would be any more harmful than said existing search engines in China?

If these points cannot be proven, then it does not seem intellectually honest to claim that Dragonfly is making China a worse place. To say that it fails to make China a better place, sure that makes sense. But to say that it makes it worse necessitates proving that the status quo in China without Google is better than a China with Google. Most commenters in this thread aren't actually outlining the impact of the product iself, choosing instead to criticize the fact that Google isn't signalling American or Western values as much as they want . I'd be opposed to Google entering China if the majority of Chinese were opposed to it, but this does not seem to be the case. It seems patrimonial on my part to think that I'm better equipped to judge how a society on the other side of the world functions than the people that actually live there. No doubt some Chinese oppose censorship, but the majority seem to accept it or even support it as a necessary means to ensure social stability.


Implicating another party, in this case Google, in state-sanctioned censorship and political imprisonment makes the world a worse place.

Could it be that the letter authors are misguided?

Google probably has 5000 Chinese national employees. Where are they on the issue? Wouldn't they be in a better position to judge than a bunch of Americans who grew up hearing that our system is the only workable one?


> Could it be that the letter authors are misguided?

No. China is taking millions of political prisoners and putting them into camps[1].

[1] https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/muslims-...


You've pivoted away from "what's best for Chinese people" to "how best to oppose China's rise", here. Did you notice that you did that? Was it intentional?

Not worse than the status quo can still be something unethical to be involved in.

If a government is currently using software to target, kidnap, and torture journalists and you supply them with new software that basically does the same thing then you're still complicit in the bad behavior. You're still responsible for your actions even if others would be willing to do it if you didn't.

In China's case there's also a history of this rationalization that getting involved will help westernize the country, while there's some truth to this with their embrace of capitalism - the government is not trending in a good direction. Eliminating presidential term limits, deep packet inspection, social credit system, total/unrestricted surveillance.

Western companies that operate there in a capacity larger than just manufacturing seem to just have their IP stolen and then a Chinese approved local company gets explicit government support.

It's important to help citizens of countries where the people are more vulnerable - I'd argue it's irresponsible for a company to help an authoritarian government oppress its own people. It's not a question of whether or not it's legal, something can be legal and still be wrong.


I would say its in the same vein as an aiding and abetting conviction not being based on the need of the principal offender for that assistance.

Just because a communist country doesn't need our help oppressing people doesn't mean we are A-OKAY to assist them with it..


Well the country is going to commit genocide anyway. Why not try to sell them the weapons because we make much better weapons and US companies haven't been able to break into their weapons market yet.

The potential benefits could be substantial, we could be the first big US weapons manufacturer to break into this regime's market. Over time, economic ties could bring the countries closer together and reduce the likelihood of conflict...

Do you see how insane it is to justify something morally repugnant with potential long term economic benefits? The only way your argument works is if you don't care about censorship in the first place. If that's the case, then you need no justification at all because it's just another regular customer.


Isn't that what the US is doing with Saudi Arabia? Gen. McChrystal was making this argument on the Economist podcast. If we sell them the weapons, at least we have some control in the long run, because these type of deals include training, logistics, support...etc. and you leverage these dependencies in future negotiations. Would you rather give this leverage to Russia or China?

I think the same might be applicable to this scenario.


What US is doing with Saudi Arabia is a travesty of its own. All that effort we're spending to goad other countries into an Iran embargo should really be a KSA embargo.

Thank you for presenting an alternative view. What I didn't like about the person you're replying to, is how they made a bunch of assumptions about Google's employees, and their motivations, and passed it on as a fact.

This is one of the most important reasons for FIRE / FU money. It's not about drinking martinis on a beach, it's about not having your values held hostage to economics.

I quit 2 jobs due to mistreatment and indeed, my old social network now sees me as a leper and I’ve been homeless for 6 months. This is what I want FU money for... never cared about having money before, thought skills and limitless attitude were enough.

I think in some ways one of the saddest things I've come to observe in the world as I grow older is that human history was not just full of mistakes, but that people are basically still like that. Groups of people can still betray or harm other people for entirely stupid or even invented reasons and it happens all the time. It's really easy to not look at it if it never happens to you.

Googler here; my opinions are my own.

Not saying I have a position on dragonfly I would quit over, but several people in the company who do stay because they believe leadership is responsive to employee concerns and believe they can influence the direction here. I believe that personally as well. I certainly didn’t believe that about any other company I had worked at before.


> believe leadership is responsive to employee concerns and believe they can influence the direction here

And that belief is great. But what happens if leadership does nothing? What if they do as they are currently doing and making excuses about it? They aren't currently saying there are any plans to change the course on this. Will those same people you mention leave when nothing changes in another year? I doubt it.

As I said above: your friends want their free lunches, their high salary, their status-symbol job. They'll convince themselves leadership listened to them and will ignore that they didn't change anything.

And lest you think I'm being an asshole about this because I'm not in the situation: I have quit a good job over ethical concerns before. Had meetings with senior leaders that I truly respect and said "this is wrong". They wouldn't budge so I walked. Got a job paying less money. Slept a lot better at night.


Counterpoint: Project Maven is canceled and Google ended forced arbitration on harassment cases going forward. Employees have been heard before, and the product hasn’t launched yet. I think it’s premature to know these things about concerned Googlers.

Google's original rational for exiting China was to protest suppression of information. Has it done anyone any good? China simply developed their own search technology in house to replace Google, but with censorship. By doing so, they strengthened their local tech talent, and now they might outsource the technology they developed to other regimes. If Google had developed this tech from the beginning, they may have been able to avoid letting this tech get into the hands of regimes even worse than China.

Of course, we will never know the alternative outcome. And I appreciate the value of a company standing for moral principals even when it goes against practical considerations. But I think it is highly reductionist to suggest that yours is the only or "obvious" moral view on the situation.


> f you have "Google Engineer" on your resume, quitting your job and finding another is a much simpler task than for 99% of the rest of the world. This guy? He can quit and he'll be fine. He can walk into any dev shop in Toronto and we'd take him- maybe not at Google salary rates, but close.

> And so that is why Google won't stop. Because there's no reason to. They won't lose many employees. They're dominant enough that they won't lose customers. They'll be just fine.

What you're saying here is that this guy is a good employee, at minimum is above the medium in tech skills. So he is valuable.

This seems like a reason WHY Google would stop. If they keep losing valuable talent, then they can't maintain a reputation of having the best. Or if they have an extremely high turn over rate (where people get their stamp of approval and leave. Not being let go), then Google (or any company) can't maintain a high quality product. You need high quality people to develop high quality products.

This is actually why Google (and other companies) have caved to employees concerns in the past. Because in reality it is good business practice to pay attention to your employees' ethical concerns.


The two lines you just quoted me on, did you read the part in between them? As I said:

> you would think that there would be more than just a handful of Googlers quitting for ethical reasons over Dragonfly. But there aren't. The sad truth is, the thought of making just that little bit less money per year at another company (but still more than enough to live well), the thought of losing that status symbol of "Googler", that's enough that they're willing to accept that their work will support suppression of human rights.

My point is that people are not quitting, will not quit, and Google has no real worries about an employee uprising. Because other than this guy and a handful of others, nobody is going to quit over this. Google leadership doesn't care. There's too much money for them to worry about ethics.


Google no longer has the management skill to see that.

Edit: to be more precise: I'm not certain they ever did, or if they simply got lucky/stumbled their way through previous incidents.


True. Just like people working at Amazon can justify the conditions they impose on their warehouse employees. Or people at Boeing/Lockheed-Martin/Northrup-Grumman can rationalize their work despite it being aimed at killing people - not all of whom were about to cause harm.

There's no way any of us would accept not being employed over principle like this when the harm is so far removed from us. This guy is an exception.


It’s very different for a current employee versus a prospective employee, though. There are an unknowable number of people simply not applying to work at your company if you are engaging in unethical practices. I certainly know a few quality candidates who have knocked companies out of their pool of interest on morals alone.

"Or people at Boeing/Lockheed-Martin/Northrup-Grumman can rationalize their work despite it being aimed at killing people - not all of whom were about to cause harm."

The overwhelming majority of casualties in modern warfare are civilians.


"And so that is why Google won't stop. Because there's no reason to."

I completely disagree, look at what happened to project Maven.


> Now consider the rest of the world. The large majority of people for whom quitting for moral/ethical reasons means a significant risk of your kids going hungry.

There is only one logical conclusion: don't have (any more) children. If you don't have children, consider not having any children. If you do, consider not having any more.

If the society as a whole doesn't want to pay for the cost of raising a child, why should you grind your bones?


I came here to post the exact same thing. :)

>"Yet, a little more than a week later, Google CEO Sundar Pichai attempted to invoke an engineering defense by arguing that Google would not need to censor 'well over 99 percent' of queries."

This is one of those egregious misuses of statistics that really gets to me: while Sundar's point might be valid, not all queries deserve equal weight. To the author's point, equating "human rights" to "pictures of kittens" is not a fair way to frame the problem.


Listen, we won't have to execute over 99% of people.

Full disclosure, Chinese expat and non-search Googler here, I don't think that's fair.

As with most issues, where you come out depends largely on where you draw the baseline and I don't think it's fair to say that the baseline for Chinese consumers is no censorship or that for no access to Google and no censorship on Google is better than limited access to Google because of censorship.

I know I personally would much rather have limited access than no access - especially if there was a search censored disclaimer like before.


> I know I personally would much rather have limited access than no access

Sure, access that makes you (more?) complacent. Give people just enough to keep them from protesting or rioting. Further normalize censorship: if a non-Chinese company is willing to do it, then it must not just be the Chinese government that's bad, or worse, it must mean that censorship overall isn't that bad.

If non-Chinese entities take a hard line against censorship -- especially when doing so keeps them out of a lucrative market -- it sends a message. Bowing to pressure is just tacit acknowledgement that bad stuff is ok as long as they get paid.


Is that so bad? Would you rather everyone rioted and collapsed the economy? Is censorship bad?

The phone numbers are linked to searches. You think people searching for "Chinese government oppression" on Dragonfly are going to have long happy lives?

You still think it's better to have "limited access"?


You're responding to a Chinese expat, you know. You're talking about hypotheticals while they know the reality.

Maybe ask some real questions instead of rhetorical ones?


That was a real question, you absolute weirdo. I am just flabbergasted that you and they have such disregard for human life that they consider participation in its oppression to be an intellectual exercise. You are sick.

I do because I very much doubt this is going to be unique to Google. Again, it depends on where you draw the baseline.

I also think its much harder to censor very broad and general set of ideas than specific issues. I think the resulting general improvement in access to information will result in a more educated populace and improved quality of life and people will want more and demand more of their government.


It's okay to contribute to their oppression, because they're not used to freedom anyway?

Perfection is the enemy of progress. I'm not a fan of censorship but you must work with what you have, work at the margins. Crying about it won't do a thing - especially from outside.

That's (maybe) great for folks in China, but what about folks outside? Is the rest of the world really better off if Google can easily be bullied and manipulated by the Chinese government?

Once they start taking orders from Beijing about what results to show in China, why shouldn't they take orders about what to show in the US? After all, the Chinese government controls their access to an enormous market worth lots of money. Will we be able to find articles about the concentration camps for Muslims in China after they're operating in China?


> Once they start taking orders from Beijing about what results to show in China, why shouldn't they take orders about what to show in the US?

At the end of the day, Google is an American company, and the US won't let that happen. Right now, Chinese companies are given a free monopoly in their home country, which gives them billions of dollars that they can use to purchase foreign companies. China would a much easier time pressuring Tencent and Baidu than Google or Microsoft. This is all implying that China cares about what foreigners think of them, which they don't.


Google is an American company, and the US won't let that happen

Ahem https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/05/15...

The price of access to the Chinese market is to parrot the Party line globally.


> Is the rest of the world really better off if Google can easily be bullied and manipulated by the Chinese government?

I think you overestimate the influence they would have, have you noticed Microsoft or Apple getting bullied by the Chinese government? Both companies bends over backwards to please China, if they don't get affected much why would Google?


> I know I personally would much rather have limited access than no access

I think this is a really weak position that is intolerable to me. Acceptance of oppression will just invite more oppression. In america we have the expression "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" that is very applicable to this situation.


In america we also have NSLs.

That is an astounding defense.

If the censorship is working they will not have to censor any searches because all those wrong thinking people will be dead or in prison.


Or sufficiently chilled that they self-censor. That's the "best case" here -- users get non-censored results for non-banned topics (better than today), and still get no support for banned topics (same as today).

Sure but that’s not how it works if your search activity is an input to your social score. Looking for information that “doesn’t exist” can have material negative consequences.

I don’t think your “best case” is actually a possible outcome in modern China.


What a garbage CEO Pichai has been. I suspect that Brin and Page's decision to hand over the reins was because they didn't have the courage to lead Google morally but they also didn't want to get their hands dirty.

I kinda got the impression they wanted to leave Google without actually leaving Google. I think they're just done.

Percentages are for sales pitches. 1 in 100 queries, 1 in 1,000 queries, 1 in 10,000 queries all sound way worse. If you hear 99.9 percent, you know you're being sold to. Also, censoring is only the minor problem, it's the reporting to authorities that is the real threat. "We only have to report 1 in 1,000 of your queries" doesn't sound very good. I do 1,000 queries a month.

Censorship is only a piece of what is disturbing too. Linking searches to personal phone numbers is way more frightening.

The articles don't say if phone number logging was only going to be done for users searching for censored keywords, or all users making any kind of search. I suspect the latter. And that is a very, very problematic.


Yes, this is baffling. "It's okay to say 99% of things" is like a mission statement for oppression.

"Can I double check that 99% statistic?"

"Sorry, the source data underlying that statistic is part of the censored 1%. We'll forward your interest to the relevant authorities though."

"Thanks Google!"


I've heard this argument when there was full blown War on Drugs. Over 99.9 substances are legal, so how can you say it limits your freedom?

But there is some truth to this. As a user, I found cn.bing.com to be much more useful than Baidu even if it was also censored. Most of my searches are non-political anyways.

More to the point, I really appreciated how, when Google was in China, that they would say something like "some results not returned because censorship!", which Bing had to copy despite the Chinese government being annoyed by that.

If Google was committed similarly to censoring in a more transparent way (being forthcoming when censorship is happening), that would be a huge improvement over the status quo.


I think some of the concern stems from the fact that China will start to make up a material percentage of Google’s revenue and that gives China leverage over Google. So maybe it’s starts out being transparent and then two years from now China threatens to kick Google out of they don’t remove the warning, or if they don’t give them information on a dissident, etc...

It’s much easier to say no now before they get used to the new revenue stream


I don’t see that ever happening. China already makes up a substantial share of Microsoft's profits, yet any Chinese interference is extremely frowned upon in Bing and all other properties (even if it happens by accident, it would become a huge scandal).

This completely misses the point. The problem is not "most searches". The problem is those banned ones and what is done with access to that search history.

Search activity is linked to a phone number so it could be used in the social score. Do you think a message on the result page will help with that consequence?

Don't delude yourself into thinking Google is somehow making China a nicer place to live because it's easier to search for pictures of cats.


You are thinking like an outsider and I’m thinking like an insider. It isn’t searching for cars, but things needed to get work done, so reaearch, etc..., which is all severely deficient on entertainment/medical scam focused Baidu. The use of Google would be a net positive to the productivity of anyone inside the GFW who needs to do something serious, not just “search for pictures of cats”, which by the way, could just turn up lots of porn on baidu.

As for your search results on phone comment, I’ve run afoul of the GFW multiple times on my phone and never had the CIA (Chinese intelligence agency) at my door. They wouldn’t really have time for that, and if they want to target someone specifically, whether google is in China or not is irrelevant.


I still think you're missing the point here. Nobody disputes Google search results will be more useful than Baidu results. We all know Google is a good search engine. The point is that the benign "99%" of searches do not justify the huge negative consequences of the 1% of search censorship and association with identity and profiting from chilling of that speech. Also even framing the debate this way undermines the real ethical challenges of doing this.

The major technical problem is that search results are associated with individuals (through phone number and maybe other indicators) which means they can be incorporated into social score or otherwise facilitate automated targeting of citizens. It does not require individual targeting because simply attempting to use Google to find out what "Human Rights" are could negatively impact your standing in China.

You can justify the negative consequences by saying research may be a bit easier to perform but it won't help the people that are harmed directly by Google building this platform.

This says nothing of Google directly contradicting their own guidelines for AI development and their stated mission of Do No Evil(tm).

Insiders may benefit from thinking like outsiders from time to time. You are right about one thing, Google insiders will benefit from this product much more than outsiders.


You still don’t get how censorship really works. Preventing access to information is the extent of it, you aren’t targeted by what you search for, you can search for Dalai Lama, human rights, or Winnie the Pooh without worrying about the police knocking on your door. Where you can get in trouble is by speaking out in public forums, but even here censorship is mostly automated (your post is rejected for using sensitive words) and/or wumaos attempt to lead the conversation away from disgruntlement.

China is definitely not a police state, meaning they don’t have the resources to crack down on any dissent that isn’t notable.

But here is the thing: is the harm of google not being in China more than the harm of being China? As someone who lived in China for 9 years, I say yes: there is simply lots of information (eg non scammy healthcare) that is not under censorship but useful and not easily found without google. You are condemning people to harm to satisfy your high standard of morality.


they don’t have the resources to crack down on any dissent that isn’t notable

Engaging the services of a company specialising in doing things “at scale” would surely help with that.


They would wind up imprisoning everyone, and no one in China wants to go back to the Maoist 70s. Again, China isn’t a 1984 police state, it is way too chaotic for that. It’s more like whack a mole.

Do you think Google can create an AI that plays Whack A Mole better than humans? How do you think the moles feel about that?

You simply don't want to be the mole (who sticks their head above ground, becoming notable and making themselves heard), and if you are the mole, you are going to get whacked either way.

I admit to having a lot less experience in China than you do so I appreciate that perspective.

Having said that this still sounds like a shaky justification of Google putting profits ahead of their own stated ethics.


Agreed, it really is a false equivalency. Completely.

>"Yet, a little more than a week later, Google CEO Sundar Pichai attempted to invoke an engineering defense by arguing that Google would not need to censor 'well over 99 percent' of queries."

That's Statistics for "Go Fuck Yourself"


The point is that Google should not be held as moral entity.

If it's held onto the moral standard, Ads should not be Google's business at all, as Larry Page stated sometime in the early days of Google. (I cannot find the reference though, the statement is on the line of "advertising is fundamentally immoral).

On the other hand, if you look at what search service is provided in China (Baidu would sell online groups to advertisers entirely and let the advertisers to pretend to be genuine community member and manipulate the content), by simply providing a censored Google search is a morally noble service to Chinese Internet users.

I do not support or disapprove censored search on the human rights level.

I do support censored search on the basis of providing a more normal search service, and make non-political high-quality information available to normal Chinese citizens.


> The point is that Google should not be held as moral entity.

Any company is just a bunch of people doing stuff. Those people always remain morally responsible, there's just legal exceptions, but no moral ones.

If one doesn't question something, or even seeks to remain ignorant of it, they could be argued to even be responsible even for something they didn't know about -- since it wasn't despite, but because of their efforts that they were ignorant of it.

> simply providing a censored Google search is a morally noble service to Chinese Internet users

There is nothing "noble" about slightly better product, any more than making a slightly thinner laptop is "noble".

> "We could have taken a moral stand, but what good would that have done?" But the moral good of a moral act inheres in the act itself. That is why an act can itself ennoble or corrupt the person who performs it. The victory of instrumental reason in our time has brought about the virtual disappearance of this insight and thus perforce the delegitimation of the very idea of nobility.

-- Joseph Weizenbaum, "Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation" (1976)

It's a disappearance of insight, not new insights. Some regressed into a moral stone age, but they didn't change the world as much as just themselves with that.


> simply providing a censored Google search is a morally noble service to Chinese Internet users

No, considering what Chinese consumer are getting, a US normal search product is morally more noble.

People literally get gulled into spending their life's saving because of Baidu's fake ads.

Just like giving African famine victims some amount of food is morally noble.


> People literally get gulled into spending their life's saving because of Baidu's fake ads.

Then try this, in order of ascending difficulty: make link lists and web rings, make search engines, organize for consumer protection, actually demand the concentration camps be closed, for starters.

You can't appeal to humanity, "mercy for the non-dissidents", while ignoring the dissidents as out of scope and irrelevant. That's like telling someone they should stop snoring while you are operating machinery at 500dB or something. You can't impress me by saying this person who burned 23089234 dollars needs my 50 cents or they will starve.

And that's besides the point anway. It's not about the wellbeing of Chinese non-dissidents, it's about the potential complicity of companies in countries which so far are not totalitarian. I'm not going to feed someone who is starving if it means I wipe my whole intellectual heritage with some virus I bring home. To even bring up a sub-optimal search engine as something that could ever matter in such a context is staggering.

> Just like giving African famine victims some amount of food is morally noble

That "victim" is in turn currently brutalizing (and/or complicit with the brutalization of) someone else who is both starving and being brutalized. The only condition for "giving them food" is to stop with that, something they should have done already anyway. But even now, the actions show that the brutalization and/or the looking away is more important to even themselves than the "food".

The appeal to compassion to normalize being not compassionate does not work. If you can't have sympathy for someone kidnapped or murdered for pissing off the wrong corrupt henchman, then don't talk about ads mixed with search results like some super tragic thing.

Comparing the results of what humans are doing (or fail to do), with a famine, which basically just "happens", that is also duly noted, and fully rejected. At this point, I think I could make a totalitarianism rationalization bingo card.


Tbh I do not get what your saying and their connection with my statements.

But mine probably appears the same to you...


1.) Chinese citizens can't fix their own stuff, because organizing for a change that they want is not something they dare / are allowed to do.

2.) To not spread that into non-totalitarian companies, we must not mormalize totalitarianism. If we did, who would we beg for a better search engine or such petty gimmicks -- when the whole world is a corrupt place run by murderers?

3.) Speaking of that, murder is not government. Obedience towards murderers is not citizenship.

4.) You just used the word "noble" to deny the nobility of those quitting Google, and ascribe it to something that is not noble in the least. It's like something you noticed other people care about, you just don't quite know what it is.

> Every powerful state relies on specialists whose task is to show that what the strong do is noble and just and, if the weak suffer, it is their fault.

-- Noam Chomsky

> Truth is something so noble that if God could turn aside from it, I could keep the truth and let God go.

-- Meister Eckhart

5.) The confusion is not mutual.


> The point is that Google should not be held as moral entity.

False. Companies are made up of people, who are morally responsible for their actions, which, by extension, are the actions of their company. You don't get to dodge moral responsibility just because you have a corporate umbrella over your head.


A source on the Page claim would be helpful. He may have said that then-current ads are morally flawed and that Google could do better, which is what Google did (yet saw degradation over the years)

Appendix A: http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html

Larry and Sergey contend that ads incentivize providing poorer quality search results so that users click on ads, that ad-funded search engines are inherently biased towards advertisers and against the needs of consumers, and that it's crucial that we have a transparent search engine in the academic realm.

It's amazing how prescient Larry Page and Sergey Brin truly were at the time. If we ever invent time travel we should introduce college-age Larry and Sergey to their own ad-based corporate monopoly with a completely secretive search algorithm.


When discussing project Dragonfly there are two perspectives:

1. what's good for China's citizens

2. what's good for the rest of the world

You must keep this in mind. For China's citizens it's undeniably good for Google to be there, because Baidu lacks competition and I hear that it sucks. Having a good search engine is important for education.

For the rest of the world, Google being there is backpedaling on their core values and we're then in danger for one of the world's most powerful and dangerous software companies to succumb to Chinese demands, because of money, which can affect all of us.

I would prefer for Google to not go to China. I'm a privacy fanatic and a liberal, so I don't want the Chinese administration to further destabilize our liberal democracy, which is already too fragile these days. But if there's an uproar, let's not do double standards. Google isn't a special snowflake. I want the same outrage for Microsoft or Apple or other big software companies that sell products and services in China. Because they aren't much less dangerous and prone to succumb to Chinese demands.

But that's a personal opinion. Maybe having these multi-nationals pull out of China would be a net loss for the whole world. Who knows. And having some Chinese acquaintances, I certainly don't wish for them a lower quality of life.


> For China's citizens it's undeniably good for Google to be there, because Baidu lacks competition and I hear that it sucks.

In the short term, maybe that's true. But longer term, it just makes Chinese citizens even more comfortable with censorship. If all sources of information in China sucked, and citizens knew about it, they'd be more likely to protest or push for change.

If non-Chinese entities decided to keep or move business elsewhere due to human rights and censorship concerns, the Chinese government would eventually have to change. They might be an economic powerhouse now, but being cut off from the rest of the world makes that position untenable.


> If all sources of information in China sucked, and citizens knew about it.

This is wishful thinking. The People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. 70 years later communism still sucks, yet in China it endures.

Being born in an ex-communist country from the Warsaw pact I can tell you ... the only reason USSR fell was because of hunger. Without hunger, which is a primal instinct, human beings can adapt to everything else. In other words, for as long as China's economy is strong, their political system has virtually no opposition, censorship is part of politics and this isn't an issue that the population can vote for.

China blocks Internet sources that aren't filtered via their firewall. China also blocks many VPN services. They also use tactics like making foreign online services unbearably slow. That Google is or isn't doing business in China has absolutely no consequence on the Chinese' ability to search for unfiltered information.

> If all sources of information in China sucked

The problem that you're not seeing is that in order to assess whether something sucks or not, you have to have an alternative to compare it with. In absence of an alternative, this scenario will not happen.

So while I agree that Google shouldn't go to China, because it would be against our interest for obvious reasons, trying to frame it as not being in the interest of the Chinese people is wrong, possibly dishonest.


>Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Even if that mission is constrained in China, I think it will provide huge value to Chinese citizens and the rest of the world. As an American I would love a well-indexed Chinese internet.

I don't believe that Google not going into China will at all change Chinese politics. The Chinese government doesn't want Google's capabilities that badly that they would make policy changes in order to appease the employees preventing it. On the other hand, Google going into China could very well influence culture over time.


Why are Microsoft and Google employees so different that it's OK for Microsoft to have a censored China specific Bing search engine, but it's not OK for Google to have one ?

https://www.bing.com/?mkt=zh-CN

https://www.economist.com/analects/2014/02/12/bings-chinese-...


Many idealistic engineers were attracted to Google by its promise to not be evil, this is a betrayal of that promise. Microsoft's long reputation of being evil means that engineers that work there don't really care.

"Many idealistic engineers were attracted to Google by it's promise to not be evil"

Really? Just how many idealistic engineers are there?

Sincere idealism is rare. Most of the engineers I've met just want to make lots of money and work on interesting stuff, which is likely why the overwhelming majority of Google employees are still working there.


Google attracting idealistic engineers != All Google engineers are idealistic.

Like you identified, the idealistic ones will protest and maybe quit. Google will still likely be okay, it just won't be the place where idealistic engineers flock.


Plenty. Many are just bitter and disillusioned and afraid. Many have substantial investment of their own code and reputation that they can't take with them when they leave, not to mention the money they're leaving on the table (at t5 and above, 50%+ of pay is tied to 4-year vesting stock options). And that doesn't mention the institutional value that they're conceding to people they view as having betrayed their values - I have personally stayed in organizations way too long, trying to turn them around when they had gone in directions that were antithetical to their stated and previous goals.

Look at the ACLU: it still holds tremendous cultural cachet as the defender of free speech - but there's been a generational change, and while plenty of the old guard still believe in that ideal, there's a whole new guard that have basically the opposite stance - they're concerned mostly about stopping "Hate Speech". There's a really good argument to be made that they are right to do so, that they're trying to clean up the mess that their predecessors made.

(But I don't buy that last argument in the least, personally)


Microsoft company culture was not something everyone talked or dreamed about unlike Google. So doing what they do was not somehthing that shocked people. You need a search engine?, here you go, have some chinese Bing. No one bats an eye.

But Google has changed a lot. This makes developers sad.


The author did not work for Microsoft.

Because Google committed to not doing evil things like this. Doing the right thing is presented as being part of its culture.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has always been evil.


Who decides what is evil? I don't think it's evil. If I was living in China I would rather have access to a censored Google than no Google at all.

Some Google results in USA are removed for dcma reasons, are these considered censorship?

By many people, yes. And here in Europe, it's even so much worse (right to be forgotten, all kinds of hate speech, etc.)

Yes. It is not political censorship, however. There's a spectrum of speech, and political speech is generally considered to be the most important kind when it comes to freedom of speech protections.

To expand on the thought: some Google results in the USA are removed because they're child pornography, and even viewing or storing images of such outside of very narrow contexts is a crime.

No. Much like trespassing isn't censorship either.

It's not OK. Why is it so important to find similarities to justify behavior?

nobody uses bing lmao

>"Code had been written to show only Chinese air quality data from an unnamed source in Beijing"

Anyone remember "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."?


yes and the OP sums up Dragonfly's specifically known problems with:

...blacklisting the phrase “human rights,” risking health by censoring air quality data, and allowing for easy surveillance by tying queries to phone numbers

there seems to be a parallel between China's desire to censor local air quality information and what certain US presidential administrations have tried to do with scientific research on climate change


Lots of people talk, but this guy is giving up a lot of money for this stand. That takes character

Or, he found another job quickly with comparable pay.

But there's always the question: Do I stay and try to change things? Or do I leave and expect others to?

Nah, that’s the justification googlers use to not leave their well paid position.

The thing that drives profitability and decision making at Google is its business model. Even if they wanted to change their business model, it's not easy and not always an option.

Sometimes the only power you have is to walk away. The article mentions that he had a ton of meetings with higher-ups during his last two weeks of employment there, but they were clearly uninterested in even acknowledging that there was a problem. Seems like he didn't have the power to change anything except by setting an example by leaving.

but how many protests against Google's actions (like the AI or whatever for DoD thing before it) before you realize it is just a bad fit and maybe you should look elsewhere lest your work be used for actions you disagree with?

I would just differentiate between strategy and the willingness to take a hit for something. I'm not sure what the best choice in the situation actually is, but the willingness to give up something is impressive

> But there's always the question: Do I stay and try to change things? Or do I leave and expect others to?

This logic would apply if you were a board member or you held a significant number of voting shares.

As an employee, your role is to do what the board and shareholders want you to do.

As an employee, you will be replaced should you rock the boat or affect their bottom line.


What if there are engineers working to write vulnerabilities and backdoors into Dragonfly? It’s been hypothesized that Heisenberg sabotaged the Nazi nuclear program from the inside, after all.

Engineers are commodities. If this is what the board and shareholders want, an engineer has a ~0% chance of leading a revolution and changing that. This is real life capitalism not The Hunger Games.

Engineers can move up and have influence.

Influence is irrelevant. A publicly traded company (especially of Alphabet's size) has fiduciary obligations.

Some engineers also have shares.

US for-profit (non-bank, non-insurance, non-investor bund) companies, unlike European ones, are not legally required to maximise profits unless they are insolvent. Primary reason for short-time profit drive is investor pressure. The most important fiduciary duty is business competence. The right to reap profits is given in exchange for that.


If engineers were commodities, hiring would be a much simpler process than it is now.

But engineers are not commodities, thus we spend 2, 3, or 4 interview sessions going over silly algorithmic puzzles, so companies can figure out if we're great, or if we suck.

That's the opposite of a commodity.


I'm surprised no one from Google has made a full-throated defense of this project. Not that I personally agree with it, but there is a case to be made that projects like Dragonfly embody the longstanding US policy of "constructive engagement" with China. It's not hard to imagine Hennessy or Pichai extolling the virtues of compromise and highlighting a handful of key concessions from the Chinese gov't.

Why haven't we heard that? Either 1) Even Google's leadership doesn't believe this has any moral upside, only financial, or 2) They can't so much as admit that they're making concessions to an authoritarian regime, for fear of offending said regime. Both explanations betray remarkable moral cowardice.


"constructive engagement" has been a farce, china has been increasingly authoritarian and abusive over the last decade, except now they have the economic weight to make it difficult to oppose.

The only thing that plan ever was, was a scam to enrich a lot of companies taking advantage of cheap labor (Who are going to get bulldozed now that China has stolen all the IP of consequence). It was never some moral stance that was going to get china to "come around" on freedom and democracy.

Just like Google's stance isn't about morality, its about making more money.


https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/28/google-dragonfly-letter/

There was a leaked memo of those that support the project.


Because there are no concessions from the Chinese government. Well, their concession is to offer Google revenue from China, but that's hardly a universally recognised good - that's just money flowing from one place to another.

Because the advocates of the project keep the conversation internal (and civil) instead of trying incite outrage through leaks, mobs, grandstanding, moral posturing and what not[1].

Source: I'm a Google employee.

[1] https://medium.com/@googlersagainstdragonfly/we-are-google-e...


I’m also a Google employee. The overwhelming majority of internal opposition to Dragonfly has been civil and considerate. There have been uncivil remarks and accusations by several who support Dragonfly. (EDIT: I should clarify that these rude voices are a minority, on all sides of the issue.)

Please keep discussion of this issue substantive.


Do you have any links you can point me to that demonstrate the pro-Dragonfly folks going through similar lengths to "have themselves heard"? What part of my statement seems unsubstantive?

You frame the anti-Dragonfly contingent as “trying incite outrage through leaks, mobs, grandstanding, moral posturing and what not.” This generalization is inaccurate and non-substantive.

Right, it's best to keep those discussions amongst everyone who stands to make heaps of cash by ignoring nagging morality.

This is why in any legal proceedings against companies they only allow the jurors and judge to be made up of employees or major shareholders.


Good for him but this is not very helpful. Google needs to be brought to admit that freedom of information is not their business, and at a minimum they should be pressured to be transparent about the kind of stuff they censor, inside and outside of china. (Pity that GDPR did not cover that). Thanks to recent events, its no longer taboo to say you censor stuff, and the question needs to move to who benefits from that and who loses. Childish responses about "99 percent" are just that, infantilizing and insulting.

> transparent about the kind of stuff they censor

That's often illegal, be it "National Security Letters" in USA, or anything in China.

If they slap on a generic disclaimer "This Serach Engine may censor results known to the State of California to cause cancer or known to the People's Republic of China to cause civil discontent", that helps no one.


people have become so accustomed to censored things, and often so supporting of them , that i wouldnt be surprised if the NSA just went ahead and be public with it. As for china, google can be transparent about it to the rest of the world, they are a US company.

> As for china, google can be transparent about it to the rest of the world, they are a US company.

And then Google would make enemies with the CCP, which kind of defeats the purpose of giving in to their demands for censorship and the identification of dissidents.


You want GDPR to remove censorship or are you wanting where results are removed due to GDPR for an indication that the removal took place due to GDPR? If the latter, honestly, I'd imagine that would be something Google would want to put in place as they'd try to position GDPR as a form of censorship and attack it in a way that users may feel inclined to change their view on the policy.

Can someone help me understand why Google would create such a solution for the Chinese government? Is it money (does Google need it)? How else does Google benefit? Does this mean other search engines like Bing will follow suit?

This is more about being obsessed about growing than the money. Apple, Google, and all other enterprise company boards will always try to grow themselves.

They are afraid of being left behind. Microsoft with mobile phones, Apple with driverless cars, and Google with chinese market apparently. Google thinks that pie is so delicious and they can work around the cencorship issue. Sad times.


This is a very common way of looking at this problem, and I find it absurd: Google is creating this "for the Chinese government". How about for the Chinese users? I for one am a Chinese use, and I would love to be able to use Google in China.

Quite the contrary, I think Chinese people would benefit much more if Google would refuse to build a search engine with cencorship.

By accepting their rules, Google would validate the cencorship that government is forcing to their citizens, and government could easily tell to their people: "Look, whole world is agreeing with me and what I am doing."

By not accepting to build it, Chinese people will always have the upper hand in the argument, and something to reference it to.


I think you need to stop telling Chinese people what they need. We know what we need. As long as there is still cencorship, we will always have something for the argument. More to the point, an argument is not even what we need the most right now. It is not even close to the top of the list. We need the best search engine in the world much more than an argument with the government.

Looking at your comment makes me feel that it is not the Chinese people who are afraid of "losing an argument". If anybody, it is you. You believe so deeply in the evilness of Chinese government, that you are afraid your evidences are drifting away from you.

Just a hypothesis. No offense.


> I think you need to stop telling Chinese people what they need. We know what we need.

Surely it's understandable from the outside looking in why people can't see what the Chinese people want/need. If you can't publicly post those "argument" you speak of under your name for fear of reprisal, how is anyone supposed to know any better?

I think the comment speculates because it's all they can do because it's less about "losing an argument" and more about not even knowing whether an argument exists. In the absence of clear feelings towards something (or the ability to state them), you should expect people to speculate and not be surprised when they are wrong.


Im sorry that my comment made you feel this way. I was not trying to win any argument here. My comment above would be my reaction if it would happen to me.

I think it helps to brainstorm all the aspects of a problem. Of course, I can not say what you need specifically, you are right about that.

> If anybody, it is you. You believe so deeply in the evilness...

Btw, this feels more like an attack than a hypothesis, just saying.


I am very sorry to make you feel attacked. I honestly did not mean that. I really appreciate you still being able to stay cool even when you feel offended.

It is healthy to disagree with each other as long as it does not get personal with assumptions. Thanks for the discussion :)

It confounds me that people who are not natively Chinese, or have never lived there, or ever used the existing search infrastructure (ex: Baidu) make sweeping claims with such confidence that they truly know what's best for Chinese people.

You don't have to directly suffer from genocide to know genocide is bad.

Please unpack for me how opening up Google Search in China precipitates genocide.

It does so by censoring information about what's going on in Tibet and Xinjiang, for example.

It causes genocide? Or it doesn't help prevent it? Those are 2 different things. It's unclear to me how Google's absence from the Chinese market actually ameliorates your concerns regarding Tibet.

It doesn't ameliorate them, because it will be censored anyway. But when Google goes there and does the censorship, they are complicit in covering up that genocide. And yes, that makes a difference - ethics isn't about pure utilitarianism, at least not for most people.

maybe from a philosophical standpoint, but in the end then the Chinese people don't have access to Google.

The options in China are similarly censored. So it isn't like Google would be engaged in something that is an outright negative for the end Chinese user.

Maybe people prefer Google to Baidu/Bing/whatever. So if you are getting the same x results from Baidu, Bing, Google, etc. but you prefer Google's experience/filtering/page rank/whatever, are you hindered in any meaningful way beyond what you were already by using the censored version of them?


You are right on having a preference that Chinese people would like much more over "Baidu/Bing/whatever". I will give you that. But let's look at it from another perspective.

What stops then some other country to have the exact same exception for themselves? If you can do it for China, surely you can do it for us, right? Legally, this would work.

This situation has a risk of building a dangerous base against freedom :/


You are unmeasurably right. Some people still continue to defend censor in spite of all these; I tell them this will also be abused against them. See my username.

I don't think it is a situation that people are for censorship so much as they don't see any net benefit in avoiding a market that does do censorship.

Google was in China at one point. They took a stand and got out. Since then, Android has taken over the world. Also in that time, China has become one of the, if not the, biggest markets in mobile. So Google's creation, Android, is being sold within China completely divorced of everything that makes Google commit to Android in the first place. They've really gained nothing except a moral victory during this period and have lost considerably for said stand.

Feels really weird defending Google to be really honest, but in this particular case, I understand the decision to release a censored Google there. They fought the government and the government won.


If some other country ask for something similar, then Google should either give them or quit that country. Simple as that. If Google, or any company, wants to operate in a country, they need to obey their laws.

It is not like Google has not done it before: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_by_Google


I am genuinely little confused here. Are you defending cencorship?

I don't think all the cencorship out there are good; and I don't think all of them are bad as well. More importantly, I don't think my view on cencorship is the point here. My point is, Google should not be the one who fight against any laws.

As an example, in Saudi Arabia, all women are required to wear an abaya a long black cloak that covers all, but the hands and face in public. [1] Is that a good law? I don't know. But if Google wants to do business there, e.g. some female Google employee went on business trip in Saudi Arabia, she needs to obey the law there. Of course Google can choose not to do any business in Saudi Arabia. Google can even exits Saudi Arabia as a sign of protesting this law. But if I were a Saudi Arabia resident who would suffer from lack of access to information online, I would certainly hope Google does not do this.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Saudi_Arabia#Dress


> I don't think all the cencorship out there are good; and I don't think all of them are bad as well.

This one is too broad of a topic to fit in this thread I think.

> My point is, Google should not be the one who fight against any laws.

I agree that it is not Google's job to fight against laws of a country. But, what we are talking here is freedom of speech, and freedom of Internet. The reason Google is the point of the discussion is because of their dominance worldwide when it comes to accessing information.

Let's have imaginary country named A. And Google wants to enter this country by providing a search engine. But country A has a law that states "It is illegal to say/read/write that Earth is round"

What do you think Google and other companies that lead the way for accessing information on Internet should do?


If Google makes its female Saudi employees wear thesethese cloaks in public but gets to provide an uncensored search engine there, that's a win. But it can't follow censorship laws while providing an uncensored search engine. And a search engine that censors what the Chinese government wants to censor is pretty much broken.

They have one, it's called google.com. It works as well for Chinese users as it does anyone else on the planet. The entity that disapproves of this is the Chinese government, hence designing to suit the government's needs.

Exactly. The parent comment underscores the patronizing and disrespectful view of the Chinese people implicit in the anti-Dragonfly rhetoric.

It also notes the bias that the Chinese Government is the customer, and the people just hapless victims of that government.

This disrespect of the agency of the Chinese people is being used as it always is, to justify an over-simplified, binary, political type of moral indignation.

The warning sign should be the emotion of indignation over foreign politics. It’s a clue that one is probably wrong.


An authoritarian oppressive government that has the support of the majority of the population is still an authoritarian and oppressive government. Whether the people are its victims or its enablers is irrelevant to the ethics of the situation here. Either it's okay to aid and abet political repression, or it's not. If it's not, then it's not okay to assist China, regardless of what the majority of its populace thinks about that (you can always find the minority that has a very different opinion - start with the inmates of those labor camps...).

Conversely, if Chinese users want Google, and if they're not just hapless victims of their government, then they're welcome to put pressure on said government to stop censoring google.com.


> An authoritarian oppressive government that has the support of the majority of the population is still an authoritarian and oppressive government.

This is indeed the neoconservative view. An analogous statement by a sectarian neoconservative might be "A heathen government that has the support of the majority of people is still a heathen government".

> Either it's okay to aid and abet political repression, or it's not.

Binary, over-simplification.

What is political repression? Does America's Gitmo count? Our imprisonment of nonviolent drug offenders? Our criminalization of sex work? How is it that the source of all the righteous indignation happens to lie on the other side of the world?

> ...they're not just hapless victims of their government, then they're welcome to put pressure on said government

So the Chinese people are being tested now to see if they have the mettle to demand a free society in the image of the USA? Your remark actually supports my point that the neoconservative view entails judgment (and the process of dehumanization) of the population that is first framed as victims, then shamed for not prioritizing one political cause above all else.

Note, the idea that China should adopt policies in the image of the USA is where the neocon view merges with the white supremacist view. The idea that the precise nuances of Western democracy are innately superior due to the unique cultural circumstances that gave rise to the US, making them less likely to occur elsewhere.


The notion that the Chinese people actually have agency in choosing their government and that they want it this way is so far beyond ludicrous that I hardly know how to respond. How can you say that about a government that imprisons political dissidents and suppresses any information that could be a threat to its authoritarian rule? China is a one-party state with a supreme leader for life. So what are you talking about?!

I think you are buying into two major fallacies and succumbing to one major bias. First, the fallacies:

- The fallacy that leaders, even dictators, have anything resembling absolute power or are able to govern without some degree of consensus from other powerful interests within the country.

- The fallacy that a system with two very similar parties (such as in the US) is significantly different from a nation with a single party.

The bias is the idea that there is something more sinister about the reported information suppression activity being done by China than is done in the US. States must do this to maintain/launder their reputation/legitimacy in the eyes of the majority.

Look how the US has treated Julian Assange. If anything, China simply has more people with the level of courage necessary to take the kind of risks that Assange took and must in some ways apply authoritarian power to stop it.


> What is political repression? Does America's Gitmo count? Our imprisonment of nonviolent drug offenders? Our criminalization of sex work?

That is for everybody to answer on their own, in a way that is consistent with their ethical principles on other things.

> How is it that the source of all the righteous indignation happens to lie on the other side of the world?

Because the people who are doing these things for China live on this side of the world, and are mostly American citizens. So we judge them for what they do in China by American standards.

> So the Chinese people are being tested now to see if they have the mettle to demand a free society in the image of the USA?

It's not a test. The Chinese people (or their government) can demand whatever society they want. What they don't get to demand is American engineers helping them build a society that is build on foundations that are unethical by American standards. And what we get do demand is that American engineers are not complicit in this.

By your standards, it sounds like castigating IBM for helping German govt with Holocause was also "neoconservative" - after all, how dare we judge their society for what they do to some unfortunate people with broad popular support?


> society that is build on foundations that are unethical by American standards.

I acknowledge the truth of this point, but I would argue that Google engineers are helping the US Government build a society that is unethical by American standards. I will include some examples below (though this is not the main point of my reply).

> By your standards, it sounds like castigating IBM for helping German govt with Holocause was also "neoconservative" - after all, how dare we judge their society for what they do to some unfortunate people with broad popular support?

I see how the example of IBM looms large as a lesson from history on what tech companies should strive to avoid doing. It is my understanding that the logistics of the Nazi genocide would not have been possible without IBM technology, and that top officials at IBM had reason to know how the technology was being used.

But I'd argue that the main reason IBM sold the technology to the German government was not corporate greed causing a moral blind spot, it was simply that the actions of the German government were not viewed at the time as out of bounds. Nations had been rounding up and isolating "troublesome" minority populations throughout history. It is/was in effect an aspect of running a state.

My point here is that choices that are uncontroversial and broadly morally acceptable turn into things that are later viewed as having been abhorrent. It used to be the case that one form of compensation to soldiers after they fought a battle was that they were allowed to rape, etc. It used to be morally acceptable for a husband to dole out corporal punishment toward his wife and children. People who did these things did them with a clean conscience, and were respected and upstanding members of society.

Some kinds of technology are ripe for abuse by governments. I'd argue that for the most part, any product that is useful for advertising is ripe for abuse. Google and Facebook are thus both creating tech that offers the ideal suite of services for governments to abuse.

How might governments abuse the services? China demanding censorship is one way, but the US Government has many points of access and influence into Google and Facebook, to the point where I'd argue the scope and reach of US government abuses goes well beyond search result censorship and much more closely resembles the kind of social credit system China has also been derided for aspiring to build.

Just to give a few examples, neither Google or Facebook offers any sort of warrant canary for user account data, and both have created custom interfaces for government officials with warrants to use to undertake unfettered data mining of public and private information about users, as well as the extensive metadata that both firms collect for ad targeting purposes.

Recently, Facebook has been blamed for allowing so-called election meddling to occur and "not responding soon enough". Since the election meddling was simply spending money on ads that supported various fringe political groups, we can infer that what the US Government is asking for is the ability to suppress such content if it gets too popular for any reason, not just that the ad impressions were paid for in Russian currency or the transaction originated somewhere geographically close to Russia.

If there has ever been a scenario ripe for abuse this is it.

Surely similar conversations are going on at Google, but thanks to the cozy relationship with government established by Eric Schmidt, the mechanics of the content suppression mechanism were uncontroversial and have been available to government for a while.

If we put on our sci-fi hats for a moment and imagine a sci-fi description of an algorithmic "feed" such as the FB news feed or a Google search results page. Inevitably we realize that of course the government will dictate a lot about how the algorithm works.

We get a glimpse into the liability angle by looking at Tesla's "auto pilot" algorithms. Just as Zuck admitted that FB should "probably be regulated", Tesla has the same ultimate desire with respect to auto-pilot algorithms. If someone is killed by a self-driving car, it's extremely useful to eliminate any negligence that might be found in the software design or QA process, since liability would rest there and the firm(s) responsible would have to pay whenever someone was killed.

But by allowing the algorithm to be regulated, liability can rest somewhere else and not with the most risky and experimental aspect of the car's safety.

Notably, regulators are irate about Facebook's handling of Russian ad spend, as well as about any self-driving vehicle that crashes. Why? Because it is the threat of liability that most effectively nudges the firms toward allowing the government more and more control over the algorithmic details.

So I think the biggest threat is the US Government's surveillance programs and cozy relationship with big silicon valley firms. There will always be well funded groups trying to find any way to criticize or embarrass China. Among them is Trump who started a trade war and has scapegoated China as the reason the US rust belt economy is weak.

So while there is plenty of reason to be concerned about China's treatment of its citizens, the rhetoric used to express that concern is of great benefit to the neocons who are fanning the flames of conflict.

Thus it is preferable to find a way to achieve the moral objective you cite without further empowering US warmongers/neocons.

One suggestion I have is to simply offer an uncensored version of China Google hosted in the US outside the Great Firewall. Then, if someone were to search for 天安門廣場 on both systems and a few results on page 1 are missing, it will be completely obvious what the Chinese government wants censored.

I actually created this the last time Google had a presence in China and was excited to create mechanisms to easily crawl and distribute the censored data, but then Google pulled back from China (for competitive, not ethical reasons at the time) and so there was no use for it anymore.


I see. I don't mean to offend but wanted to better understand the situation. It makes sense to me that Chinese folks want access to Google's search engine, and the only path forward is for Google to work with the government.

From your perspective, is the Chinese government the one who is compromising in order to give its citizen access to a tool?


I don't see it as "Google working with the government", I see it as "Google obeying laws of China". Honestly, I did not really understand your question. It would be helpful if you elaborate a little bit. Thanks!

I think google should not be in China for the same reason - so Chinese users do not have it. Let them see how cut off and backwards they are - stuck using second rate clones like baidu - due to the communist party.

They know that (whether they are fine with it is another matter). Google was in China from 2006 to 2010, and pulled out partly due to censorship (among other reasons).

Yes, it's money. China is the only large market where Google isn't dominant. If they want to keep growing (and justifying their stock price) they have to expand in China.

Really, the answer to a question "Why is X company doing Y?" is almost always money. There's no question of "needing it": the only raison d'etre for a corporation is to get more money.


Russia is also a large market where Google isn't dominant. And there's no regulatory reason for that, Google just has a worse Russian search product than Yandex. In Korea too, Naver is winning.

That's true, I suppose, but Russia isn't really that large of a market for a company like Google. The entire Russian economy is smaller than that of New York State, or countries like Italy or Canada.

This is so over blown. Providing Chinese people with slightly censored search is better than no Google search at all.

Think how fucking much you use google every day, it's easy for you to sit here and yell human rights violation.

FFS Google already censors your search results here in USA, why are you complaining that they will also do it in China.


Does Google censor results according to how I want it to (SafeSearch) or according to how my government wants it to?

Both. You won't have much luck using US Google to find child porn, bomb-making manuals, terrorist propaganda, etc.

>FFS Google already censors your search results here in USA, why are you complaining that they will also do it in China.

Yes, Google is censoring here. Yes, I would appreciate them not doing it other places.

Not for human rights issues, but I've done what I can to eliminate google from my life. So, by your reasoning I'm 'allowed' to make comments. That said, I fully support Google firing people that don't do the job they are asked to. Shades of gray, everywhere!


Yes, I think the majority of the posts here are very patronizing to Chinese people. To quote one of the few people in this thread who is actually Chinese (seemuch):

"I think you need to stop telling Chinese people what they need. We know what we need."


If what they need is political censorship, complete with tools to find online dissenters and jail them (remember, one of the charges is that Dragonfly links search queries to specific people), they can damn well make it themselves, or find another source for it. I don't see why we should allow an American company to be involved in something like that. Principles matter.

Question; does anyone know whether Dragonfly is designed to support China's Social Credit system? Censorship is one thing, but using Google et al. to assist China in turning life into even more of an MMORPG than it already is is a whole other level of evil. If the answer isn't known then I'm left to assume that Dragonfly will be a feed for Social Credit, because it isn't plausible that Chinese authorities would forego using it for some reason.

>"Human rights and basic political speech are not an ignorable edge case."

This aptly summarizes the key point for the critics of Dragonfly. Why isn't this the lede?


Regardless of the specifics of the project, what's disappointing to me, as a Google user and fairly significant Cloud Platform customer, are the internal dynamics depicted in this earlier article [1]: the head of Google China operations sidelining the internal privacy and security teams, keeping employees and even top management in the dark, and driving hard toward a fait accompli project launch because he knows he's doing something that will cause a huge backlash internally and externally. This seems very un-Googly.

[1] https://theintercept.com/2018/11/29/google-china-censored-se...


> Dean argued that [...] China’s surveillance is analogous to the U.S.’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, secret warrants purportedly issued for the purpose of rooting out foreign spies.

So, since Google has made it publicly clear they disagree with the opacity around FISA warrants and have fought to make some transparent, can we expect the same level of public disagreement and fight for China policies?

This is what is frustrating me more than the actual censorship. Businesses that kowtow to Chinese government demands may use this whataboutism to compare to western governments, and they're right about the similarities. But they refuse to publicly even disagree with the practices like they will for western governments. If you do business in the US and your principles are pro freedom and/or pro privacy and publicly denounce US government actions against those, how can I really believe those are your principles if you remain mum in other instances. Does even the inability to disagree w/ certain ideals publicly trump your principles?

Google and other companies need to stop drawing comparisons if they refuse to draw them in the other direction. Google, come out in an official blog post and say you don't like China asking you to censor stuff. Apple, come out and officially say you don't like being forced to use Chinese clouds for your user data. This isn't like asking you to expose an NSL, it's like asking to to oppose the idea. Otherwise, we have to assume you do agree with the practices, or at the least don't disagree.


Pichai, now is your opportunity for future generations of Americans to not try to awkwardly avoid talking about you when Europeans grill them about the history of American sympathizers with what will then be known as one of the greatest bloody disasters in history.

Google is well within their right as a US company to build whatever censored search engine they want for China. The follow on opportunities may be financially enormous. But at some point, establishing and sticking with a set of values can make or break a company’s future. Maybe not today or tomorrow but a decade down the line we may look back at some of these decisions as a tipping point. Running a company as large, powerful, and influential as Google is not easy - there are very few items which are morally black and white (e.g. choosing to work with the DOD). But this issue seems to be pretty straight forward from a moral justification standpoint. I hope Google makes the right call here.

We're in the era where finance has taken over the web, so Google doing business in China is a forgone conclusion [0]. But it would be interesting if Google turned around and published the resulting censorship databases outside of China. I can imagine independent research looking into newsworthy summaries of what's been blocked, models of how practical censorship actually functions, offline thumbdrive dumps (to be smuggled in by activist organizations), etc. It would be a great public dataset for their cloud computing offerings.

[0] as an organ of the Chinese government, just as they're an organ of the US government in the US


This is the real problem here. Once you are dependent on Chinese profits, the Chinese government will lean on you to conform, or they will cut those profits off. Just like the US govt.

The possible 'profits' suddenly become possible losses once you're invested. Its easier for shareholders to turn their back on some profits than to swallow losses

Just wanted to point out that China does not suffer by your quitting Google. You need to quit China.

dont get it... people dont want censorship in china but they are fine with it here!

There is a difference between a newspaper making a decision about who to print on in the opinion pages and it presenting the edition to the government before printing to decide what is allowed.

Who's fine with it? Which of those actually understand the ramifications? Are any of them also in the group which opposes helping China censor the internet?

There has been a "deplatforming" wave in the US where large monopolistic (or oligopolistic) megacorps censor people from their platforms. And by-and-large this censorship seems to have been well received by the media.

You may not like Gavin Mcinnes or Milo Yiannopoulos or Alex Jones (I don't!) but I also don't think the tech monopolies should be allowed to erase them from the internet without losing their common carrier protections.


>but I also don't think the tech monopolies should be allowed to erase them from the internet without losing their common carrier protections.

This is the adult response. What strikes me as so interesting in the "debate" is that the people who defend google deplatforming/censoring is that they see so little past their own nose, they can't see how this could ever turn around on them.


I don't like monopolies, period. I don't think we had to wait for "deplatforming" to conclude that such monopolization is dangerous, and it's time to break them up in general. Basically, if someone has the power that they can abuse in this manner, they already have too much.

Being removed from a specific platform and being inaccessible on the internet are two different things.

Alex Jones could purchase IP space, peer with other IXs and theoretically get his own news site to rival any existing ones. This should always be allowed.

Individual services run by private entities should always be allowed to remove users from the service. xkcd 1357 is a good match here.

edit: there could also be an argument that IXs could remove his peering, but i think that's a separate discussion. Ideally IXs should peer regardless of content.


its a bit of a slippery slope though isnt it?

look at gab getting their domain and cloud hosting dropped... censorship is moving down the stack. why wouldn't it hit the IX's?


Once you hit the IX level you reach the ethical question of should the internet inherently be an equal platform regardless of content. this involves child pornography, terrorism, etc. very very bad things.

My personal stance (as I said above) is that an IX shouldn't discriminate traffic. An ISP downstream could block cp and terrorism and whatnot, by the law of the country they operate in, their own ethical beliefs, or whatever.

I would also argue that google shouldn't discriminate content, but that is its own slippery slope. Here in the US, Google blocks sites in DMCA disputes, sites in FBI takedown disputes, etc.


You have a right to free speech, not a right for other people to repeat it.

I mean, ok, just don't come crying to everyone else about "net neutrality" when large megacorps start censoring competing services and putting your streaming traffic in the internet slow lane.

I mean, it is their service,right?


That's the whole point behind Title II. No, it's not their service: it's a common carrier providing a public utility. With that comes responsibilities towards consistency and neutrality of service.

If you're referring to the removal of hate speech from online platforms, it's misleading to characterize that as censorship. I have every right to (and should) kick people out of my house for spewing vitriol, and companies have every right to (and should) do the same.

The Chinese government completely agrees with you.

Maybe so, but I don't agree with them. What they're doing is using their state monopoly on force to squash dissent. That's reprehensible, and entirely separate from companies deciding what content they want to endorse through re-broadcast.

I'd be genuinely curious to hear what people think is the difference between "deplatforming" a screaming racist in my living room by telling them to leave, and removing someone's account from a website I built. It seems to me like both are not only well within my rights, but the correct thing to do.


Don't want to be evil? Don't become a public corporation.

Three cheers for the bootstrappers! Patience is a virtue.


Who is the $ person behind this article? TheIntercept has no ads, no subscription, but a huge budget and obviously a billionaire-like benefactor. I’d like to know who that is. It should add color to any story published there.

Let's say a country allows well over 99% of websites to be accessed, it only blocks Google products because the country's government doesn't agree with them fundamentally. I think that would make Google a tad upset.

"Anybody who does business in China compromises some of their core values."

The same can be said for Europe.

Does Google want to omit search results for publicly crawled Euro information? Probably not. But GDPR requires it.


So effectively anyone who owns anything "Made in China" is transitively enabling someone doing business with China?

Does Google having offices in the Middle East also compromise core values?

Turkey, UAE, Israel, and South Africa aren't exactly saintly nations known for their lack of censorship either.

https://www.google.com/about/locations/?region=africa-middle...


My core values aren't in complete, but fairly close alignment to those of the EU.

Good for you, righteous dude. Now, start a competitor to Google. Hell, start a competitor offering uncensored search to the Chinese market!

probably relevant here.

https://github.com/ithinco/i-am-chinese-the-dragonfly-must-g...

Disclaimer - I am not the Author


Google in China would have been a way for Google (and Western Democracies) to get the most current listing of what China is asking companies to filter.

Whatever China was not comfortable asking international companies to filter (it shows to others things that Chinese government is trying to control), would have been shown by google to Chinese users by default.

Question for the google engineers here objecting to filtered products in China... Is the right to restrict right to the outcome of ones labor after it is sold universal? Who else would you grant the right to restrict the fruits of their labor from being used by you if they don't agree with you on something that may be important to them?

Can a coal miner ask the utility company to stop electrical service to the parents of a google engineer residing in heartland? If no, why not?

Why can't the baker deny decorating a cake a certain way against their will?

If you are asking for a ethical right to deny basic things (internet search is just about there as electricity, food, shelter, emergency care), just imagine if all the things you depend on came with similar exceptions that excluded you from using it.

I would have imagined lot of googlers taking objection to blatant content/speech suppression on YouTube. But they are completely fine if it is their ideology winning as a outcome of a said effort, no matter the ethics.


[flagged]


We've banned this account for repeatedly breaking the guidelines and ignoring our requests to stop.

Perhaps not everyone thinks their career is the most/ only important thing. They might even actually care about others rather than simply seek to virtue signal. Imagine that!

We'd be quite happy to hire engineers who left Google over not working on censorship. Moral courage and giving up money for something you believe in is a lot harder than people think.

Please don't post snarky, unsubstantive comments to Hacker News.

That's one way to look at it. Certainly at least the privilege of being able to quit a job in protest is present. Does it change the message of the letter? I don't think so. I'm not sure motivation actually matters all that much in this case.

Probably beneficial for Google that he quit and is no longer working on the project

So why not quit over Google’s compliance with FISA warrants?

Without drawing some very specific parallels and distinctions, the decision to quit over Dragonfly is mainly a voice of support for neoconservative anti-China warmongers.


>the decision to quit over Dragonfly is mainly a voice of support for neoconservative anti-China warmongers.

I... must be reading you wrong. Can you please explain?


The idea that the will of the Chinese people does not matter OR is not being reflected by the Chinese government's policy.

Then the conclusion from this that the Chinese people are victims of their government, or dupes.

This is step one in declaring a state illegitimate, which is always done implicitly or explicitly when the US wishes to frame a country as the enemy.

This is the view of Saddam Hussein's government that was used to sell the Iraq war. The idea that destroying a lot of infrastructure and removing him from power was actually doing the will of the Iraqi people.

Applying the label of victims or dupes to an entire population for some reason does not trigger any skepticism in the US. The view is paternalistic and packed with implicit white supremacist ideas, such as the idea that the Chinese people and culture are not naturally suited to undertake steps to change their government.

The ideas is similar to critiques aimed at Haiti's government by avowed racists, yet for some reason Americans are much more eager to believe this kind of white supremacist nonsense about the Chinese people.

It is clear that elements in the US wish to escalate things with China. Trump's trade war, the announcement by an FBI leader that many Chinese academics and cultural groups are espionage oriented, the chip implants on motherboards story, as well as the many stories about bad living conditions and failing infrastructure in China, one the other day about a bunch of runners cheating in a Chinese marathon, etc. These run like clockwork in American papers.

So by adopting the same set of premises about the relationship of the Chinese people and their government, the anti-Dragonfly activists are laying the planks for the neoconservative case that the Chinese government needs to be replaced.

This comment might be downvoted, but I'm quite sure there will not be a coherent counter-argument provided by anyone who disagrees and who also claims to oppose things like the Iraq war.

I suspect that the people concerned about Dragonfly are the same people who would have protested a Google decision to launch in Iraq on the basis of various social policies that existed there under Baath party rule. This is pretty much the definition of neoconservatism.

There is no peaceful neoconservatism, there is always a stick that must be used to punish those who are holding back the idealistic sort of progress that the neocon narrative claims will exist if only various wars can happen.


> I'm quite sure there will not be a coherent counter-argument provided by anyone who disagrees and who also claims to oppose things like the Iraq war.

Your whole point is because party A wants something, anyone else who may ageee to any of their arguments (even those who don't even "agree" but came up with the same thing from first principles in a clean lab environment), wants that thing party A wants, too. You're using one gang of villains to excuse another, that doesn't even stand on its own, it collapses before any counter-argument can reach it. It's like pointing out the Mafia drinks water and then claiming everybody who thinks water is necessary is aligned with the Mafia.

> The idea that the will of the Chinese people does not matter OR is not being reflected by the Chinese government's policy.

> Then the conclusion from this that the Chinese people are victims of their government, or dupes.

Dissidents have been murdered for decades. People who have family in China simply cannot openly speak. When they post on HN, it always ends with stuff like "I didn't fully read the article" or "I don't understand". I can't blame them, but I also can't pretend that's not going on.

So, what's wrong with that idea and the conclusion? I mean, I think you want to imply there's something wrong with it, but it's hard to tell, since both those two "sentences" don't even have a verb.

> This is the view of Saddam Hussein's government that was used to sell the Iraq war. The idea that destroying a lot of infrastructure and removing him from power was actually doing the will of the Iraqi people.

No, Colin Powell made a presentation in front of the UN, sweating very much IIRC, talking about trailers and chemical weapons and nukes.

If you're going to claim it was ever mainly about the Iraqi people, I'll need citations. I wasn't just against the Iraq war, it's the reason I can write somewhat coherent English. For me, that war was "Hitler attacking Poland", I tried to stop it before it started by arguing on the interwebs to the point of exhaustion. Even today, several times a year I bring up the idea that an arrest warrant against Bush and Blair would be the beginning of a move back into civilization. I think it's disgusting that Trump rehabilitated Bush, that him slipping Michelle Obama some candy during McCain's memorial service is now "cute". I think Americas obsession with empty language and "leadership" is one of the examples of how George Carlin was right when he said "Germany lost WW2, fascism won it".

etc.

So? Doesn't make me excuse concentration camps or pretend totalitarianism isn't totalitarianism. Read "Origins of Totalitarianism". Actually do visit concentrations, and actually live in cities where you know Jews have been dragged from their homes, as the neighbours looked away. But spare me your assumptions about what "the people concerned about Dragonfly" are or want.

> [..] so that it is as if everybody melted together into giant being of enormous proportions. This too does the for a totalitarian environment so well prepared vernacular express in its own way when it no longer speaks of "the" Russians or "the" French, but tells us what "the" Russian or "the" Frenchman wants.

-- Hannah Arendt, "origins of Totalitarianism"

> I suspect that the people concerned about Dragonfly are the same people who would have protested a Google decision to launch in Iraq on the basis of various social policies that existed there under Baath party rule.

What kind of argument is this? You suspect something you can't prove and nobody can disprove, because it takes place in some alternative universe?

> This is pretty much the definition of neoconservatism.

You mean that thing going on in that alternative universe? And you actually think that's an argument that requires a counter-argument?

So basically, because you claim to know (well, you just "suspect", but that's just the plausible deniablity variant, just like the "I'm not sure I agree" and other phrases HN is full of) what someone would have done 15 years ago in a situation that never was, you can now call everyone who is critical of Dragonfly or Chinese totalitarianism neo-conservative?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18513113

> Basically, HN is run like Singapore. It’s very tidy but there is an authoritarian dimension that is unsettling.

I came to this comment from that comment, and now I'm confused to put it mildly. How can the same person who wrote that have written what I just responded to? How can you object to manipulation on a private website, but imply totalitarianism represents the people under its heel? Why not simply say "the average HN users is reflected by this policy" and that's that?

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