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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
From everything we know so far, there was no consensus about Dragonfly, but it got built anyway.
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.
Yes. Read the open letter by Google employees. One of their main concerns is how Dragonfly will be used to put people into political prison camps.
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. 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.
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?
No. China is taking millions of political prisoners and putting them into camps.
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.
Just because a communist country doesn't need our help oppressing people doesn't mean we are A-OKAY to assist them with it..
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.
I think the same might be applicable to this scenario.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
> 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.
Edit: to be more precise: I'm not certain they ever did, or if they simply got lucky/stumbled their way through previous incidents.
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.
The overwhelming majority of casualties in modern warfare are civilians.
I completely disagree, look at what happened to project Maven.
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?
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.
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.
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.
You still think it's better to have "limited access"?
Maybe ask some real questions instead of rhetorical ones?
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.
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?
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.
The price of access to the Chinese market is to parrot the Party line globally.
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 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.
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.
I don’t think your “best case” is actually a possible outcome in modern China.
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.
"Sorry, the source data underlying that statistic is part of the censored 1%. We'll forward your interest to the relevant authorities though."
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.
It’s much easier to say no now before they get used to the new revenue stream
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.
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.
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.
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.
Engaging the services of a company specialising in doing things “at scale” would surely help with that.
Having said that this still sounds like a shaky justification of Google putting profits ahead of their own stated ethics.
That's Statistics for "Go Fuck Yourself"
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.
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.
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.
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.
But mine probably appears the same to you...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
But Google has changed a lot. This makes developers sad.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has always been evil.
Anyone remember "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."?
...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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was a leaked memo of those that support the project.
Source: I'm a Google employee.
Please keep discussion of this issue substantive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 :/
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.
It is not like Google has not done it before: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_by_Google
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.  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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
From your perspective, is the Chinese government the one who is compromising in order to give its citizen access to a tool?
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.
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.
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!
"I think you need to stop telling Chinese people what they need. We know what we need."
This aptly summarizes the key point for the critics of Dragonfly. Why isn't this the lede?
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.
 as an organ of the Chinese government, just as they're an organ of the US government in the US
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.
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.
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.
look at gab getting their domain and cloud hosting dropped... censorship is moving down the stack. why wouldn't it hit the IX's?
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.
I mean, it is their service,right?
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.
Three cheers for the bootstrappers! Patience is a virtue.
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.
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.
Disclaimer - I am not the Author
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.
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.
I... must be reading you wrong. Can you please explain?
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.
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".
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?
> 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?