Out: Don’t be evil. In: Let’s be bad guys! Last night, Google CEO Sundar Pichai confirmed months of rumors in a presentation hosted by Wired Magazine last night. Not only has Google worked on a new platform called “Dragonfly” to launch in China, they have perfected it for China’s censorship regime — which is tasked with stamping out dissent.
Isn’t that being complicit with … evil?
Google on Monday finally confirmed a secretive project that’s been fueling an employee-led backlash for weeks at the company: an effort to build a version of its search engine that complies with China’s online censorship regime.
The project, code-named Dragonfly, is not only real but is already performing to the satisfaction of top Google executives. And it could pave the way for Google to reenter China’s online search market after nearly a decade.
“If Google were to operate in China, what would it look like? What queries will we be able to serve?” chief executive Sundar Pichai said during an event hosted by Wired on Monday night. “It turns out we’ll be able to serve well over 99 percent of the queries.”
The announcement could prompt more questions from U.S. policymakers, some of whom have accused Google of being evasive about Project Dragonfly. Meanwhile, Google and its peers in the tech industry are facing intense scrutiny over its approach to user privacy and data, with some federal lawmakers proposing legislation that could impose new restrictions on tech companies’ handling of customer information.
Pichai’s claim to be able to serve over 99% of the queries despite the censorship regime is disingenuous at best. Customers in China, who know Google’s cooperating with their oppressors, are hardly likely to test its boundaries and risk getting disappeared over a search query. They’ll toe the Communist Party/Xi Jinping Cult of Personality line when on Google’s website. That’s why China has a censorship program, and why they make sure anyone doing business in China comes under their thumb — not to catch dissenters as much as to frighten people out of dissent altogether. It’s a lot easier to control people when they love Big Brother.
Jake Tapper wasn’t impressed with Google’s commitment to its former company motto:
Google motto “don’t be evil” replaced by “⬛️⬛️⬛️ be evil” https://t.co/0Yac98hgPu
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 16, 2018
Google’s hardly the only tech company that plays footsie with China’s totalitarian regime. They are, however, the most sanctimonious of the group. Pichai tried to assuage his critics and assert moral authority by noting that Google adheres to the “rule of law”:
Google once operated a censored search engine in China at Google.cn, but pulled out of the country in 2010. At the time, Google said its decision was prompted by a “sophisticated cyber attack originating from China” that targeted human rights activists, and the country’s efforts to “further limit free speech on the web in China” by blocking websites like Googe Docs, Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
For its critics, Project Dragonfly’s existence means Google has reneged on the values it avowed nine years ago. While onstage at WIRED 25, however, Pichai said working on a search engine is in line with the company’s mission to “provide information to everyone,” noting that China contains about 20% of the world’s population.
Google only embarked on Project Dragonfly after much deliberation, he said. “People don’t understand fully, but you’re always balancing a set of values” when entering new countries,” adding “but we also follow the rule of law in every country.”
Come on, man. The rule of law in China is (a) whatever Xi says it is, and (b) explicitly aimed to suppress political and cultural dissent. If you want the sweet, sweet Chinabucks, then just say so and be done with it, but quit trying to convince anyone that it’s anything but a sellout. There is no possible way to dress up collaboration with oppressive regimes as a moral good. I’ve actually Googled that; maybe Pichai should do the same.
Classic Shiny Serenity reference in the lead, with our friend Adam Baldwin as Jayne. We already knew this, but Firefly >>>>> Dragonfly: