Google employees push to kill censored search project

In 2010, Google pulled out of China dramatically citing a number of reasons including targeted attacks on infrastructure by the government with the ultimate goal of compromising Gmail accounts of Chinese activists. Now it's pushing back into the country with a project to build a censored government-friendly search engine.

What's going on? Over the last year we've seen a slew of reporting say that Google plans a reboot in China with a censored version of its search engine, and a near constant stream of leaks from the company's engineers balking at the idea of developing such a tool. 

Employees aren't having it anymore, however, with a group of over 300 engineers publicaly signing a letter requesting executives kill the project, nicknamed 'Dragonfly' and protesting the move in partnership with Amnesty International:

Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.

Why is this happening? Back in 2010, when Google shut down in China it said that "We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on" and conceded that "this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China." That's exactly what happened, and Google has been unable to access one of the world's largest digital markets with any of its services since, ceding the entire market to companies like Baidu with little competition. Search, YouTube and Gmail are blocked in China, along with many others. 

That has meant that Google isn't able to compete with everything from Android to its cloud platform, while its American-based competitors have slowly begun playing in the market as well. Apple, for example, relented to Chinese demands for iCloud hosting based in the country, and has been selling hardware there since 2013.

What's Google's stance?¬†Google has largely attempted to remain secretive about the project, but the CEO spoke out in defense of Dragonfly in October, citing that the market is too big to ignore: ‚ÄúWe are compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world's population.‚ÄĚ

Essentially, that's a potential 20 percent boost in revenue the company could win by just playing in the country, and I don't think ignoring it is going to happen. These protests may increase in frequency and size, but a business is driven by money, rather than human values, even if the notion of a censored search engine feels like a slippery slope.

Tab Dump

Amazon's new service helps satellite operators get fast internet in space
That isn't even an exaggeration! The company's new "Ground Station" service builds physical facilities for satellite operators looking for ultra-fast links with the ground. This is a smart play for a piece of the uplink pie ahead of new internet delivery services like SpaceX's Starlink coming online.

New Zealand government rejects mobile operator bid to use Huawei equipment
Days after the US government warned against using Huawei equipment to build out future networks, the NZ government has rejected the country's largest telecommunications network from using any Huawei hardware in its 5G buildout. Why? National security is cited as the reason, but the details are confidential. 

This is yet another piece of evidence that something is going on behind the scenes, but outside of the accusations we've seen little evidence that the company is actually doing any spying at all. 

A former Facebook employee says the company has a "black people problem"
It's rare to see anyone going on the record against Facebook publicly, but Mark S. Luckie, a former executive has come out about what appears to be systematic problems with the way the company deals with diversity across the board.  

Facebook lawyer ripped apart by government officials in the UK as Zuckerberg fails to show face

Great long read: Ben Thompson's look at antitrust and the Apple App Store