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16 Oct 12:06

Google CEO Tells Senators That Censored Chinese Search Engine Could Provide “Broad Benefits”

by Ryan Gallagher

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has refused to answer a list of questions from U.S. lawmakers about the company’s secretive plan for a censored search engine in China.

In a letter newly obtained by The Intercept, Pichai told a bipartisan group of six senators that Google could have “broad benefits inside and outside of China,” but said he could not share details about the censored search engine because it “remains unclear” whether the company “would or could release a search service” in the country.

Pichai’s letter contradicts the company’s search engine chief, Ben Gomes, who informed staff during a private meeting that the company was aiming to release the platform in China between January and April 2019. Gomes told employees working on the Chinese search engine that they should get it ready to be “brought off the shelf and quickly deployed.”

According to sources and confidential Google documents, the search engine for China, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed to comply with the strict censorship regime imposed by China’s ruling Communist Party. It would restrict people’s access to broad categories of information, blacklisting phrases like “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize.”

The Chinese platform was designed to link people’s searches to their phone number, track their location, and then share that data with a Chinese partner company. This would make it easy to track individual users’ searches, raising concerns that any person in China using Google to seek out information banned by the government could be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain copies of their search records.

In his letter to the senators, dated August 31, Pichai did not mention the word “censorship” or address human rights concerns. He told the senators that “providing access to information to people around the world is central to our mission,” and said he believed Google’s tools could “help to facilitate an exchange of information and learning.” The company was committed to “promoting access to information, freedom of expression, and user privacy,” he wrote, while also “respecting the laws of jurisdictions in which we operate.”

After The Intercept first revealed Dragonfly in early August, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., demanded information from Pichai. They called Dragonfly “deeply troubling” and said it “risks making Google complicit in human rights abuses related to China’s rigorous censorship regime.” Launching the censored search engine would be “a coup for the Chinese government” and set “a worrying precedent for other companies seeking to do business in China without compromising their core values,” they wrote in a letter that was also signed by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

Pichai did not answer nine specific questions the senators asked, including, “Which ‘blacklist’ of censored searches and websites are you using? Are there any phrases or words that Google is refusing to censor?”

Instead, Pichai wrote, “Google has been open about our desire to increase our ability to serve users in China and other countries. We are thoughtfully considering a variety of options for how to offer services in China in a way that is consistent with our mission. … [W]e can confirm that our work will continue to reflect our best assessment of how best to serve people around the world, as set forth in our mission and our code of conduct. Of course, should we have something to announce in the future, we would be more than happy to brief you and your staff on those plans.”

Warner told The Intercept he was “really disappointed with Google’s response,” which he said “failed to provide any information” about the censored search engine plan. “Any effort to get back into China could enable the Chinese government in repressing and manipulating their citizens,” said Warner. “Google owes us some honest answers, or it risks losing the trust of Congress and the public.”

Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but stopped operating the service in the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and hack activists’ Gmail accounts. At that time, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said he was “particularly sensitive to the stifling of individual liberties,” due to his family’s experiences in the Soviet Union. Brin told the Wall Street Journal that “with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents,” he saw “earmarks of totalitarianism [in China], and I find that personally quite troubling.”

The effort to relaunch a censored search engine in China was a closely guarded secret within Google. A team of about 300 staff — 0.35 percent of Google’s 88,000-strong workforce — was briefed about the project, which began in early 2017. When details about Dragonfly were publicly exposed, the news spread through the company’s offices across the world, and many Google employees were disturbed by the details. More than 1,400 staff signed a letter demanding an independent ethics review of the plan, and at least five Google employees have since quit the company in protest, including Jack Poulson, a former senior research scientist. “I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values,” Poulson told Google bosses in his resignation letter.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Top photo: Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google Inc., smiles during the company’s Cloud Next ’18 event in San Francisco, on July 24, 2018.

The post Google CEO Tells Senators That Censored Chinese Search Engine Could Provide “Broad Benefits” appeared first on The Intercept.

18 May 14:59

Enhanced Motorsport Manager to arrive in September | 2016 F1 season

by Keith Collantine
Were you screaming "don't convert to a three-stopper" at Red Bull on Sunday? Then look out for hit mobile game Motorsport Manager's forthcoming leap to the big screens.
16 Mar 11:05

Trading Shots: On career turnarounds and the nature of being wrong

by Ben Fowlkes
Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos

In this week’s Trading Shots, MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes and retired UFC/WEC fighter Danny Downes look back at the various career-changing moments from UFC 185 and wonder whether ours isn’t a sport that’s too quick to form lasting opinions about the fighters who populate it.

* * * *

Fowlkes: So Danny, here’s what happened at UFC 185: A lightweight who’s been with the organization for nearly seven years without exactly draping himself in glory or even becoming all that well known claimed the lightweight title, while a welterweight who’s a former champ looked like a welterweight who might become a future champ, all of which happened after a heavyweight who many of us had written off for good finally started fighting smart and even minimized the risks posed by his highly questionable chin.

I think you see where I’m going with this. When you look at these relatively late career surges, such as the ones that turned both Rafael dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler before him into champions, what comes to mind? Are we too quick to give up on athletes in this sport? Can we possibly praise these sudden revivals without also wondering, at least a little bit, about doping issues?

Are there legitimate second acts in MMA life, Danny? How about third and fourth ones?

Downes: I know where you’re coming from with your suspicions, but man, is it a bummer. Redemption stories are supposed to be uplifting, and perfect fodder for some ESPN “30 for 30” documentary. Instead, whenever we see someone improve we immediately jump to performance-enhancing drug accusations.

I think there are a number of things in play here. The first is that we are too quick to write off people. We have no patience to wait and see a fighter develop with a slow, deliberate path to the top.

If there’s one thing sports fans of all genres enjoy, it’s a reactionary hyperbolic statement. After every single fight, fans and media want to make definitive statements. Henry Cejudo is the next in line for the flyweight belt. Sergio Pettis will never make it. Sam Stout should retire. I could go on and on.

Part of the reason is that we all like to think we’re more intelligent and observant than we really are. Another reason, though, is that definitive statements are much more interesting than nuance.

Look at any BuzzFeed or cable news headline, and that will become readily apparent. Do readers/viewers want to explore the subtleties and boring details of a situation? Or should we just call one of the people involved a socialist, fascist, Hitler-in-training lizard man? We often confuse strong opinions for perceptive ones when that’s clearly not the case.

So Ben, what’s your strong, observant take on the matter? Can you enjoy these resurgences, or does that little doubt creep into the back of your mind? And if that doubt exists, does that make you smart or a cynic?

Fowlkes: I’d like to think I’m capable of evaluating things on a resurgence-by-resurgence basis. After all, not all resurgences are created equal.

Roy Nelson and Alistair Overeem

Roy Nelson and Alistair Overeem

Take Alistair Overeem, for instance. He was a light heavyweight beanpole who became a heavyweight goliath while being hounded by steroid accusations that were eventually proven true when he failed a drug test and copped to (inadvertent) testosterone use (side note: riiiiiiiiight). He fell off the radar for a little while, came back looking noticeably softer, then lost three of his next four.

Now he’s riding a two-fight winning streak. Against Roy Nelson he looked sharper and smarter (not to mention smaller) than he has in a long time. What are we to make of this? Did he get clean and get his groove back, thanks to some help from Greg Jackson and the boys in Albuquerque? Or did he just change up his cocktail of choice?

This, my lizard man friend, is why a strong testing program is so necessary. I hate even wondering about this stuff. I think we all do. We’re sick of it. We’d love to enjoy a career comeback without these doubts. Still, seems like it’s part of being an MMA fan in 2015 that you have to not only consider the results, but also the local commission (Texas is nowhere near as proactive about enhanced, out-of-competition drug tests, and the UFC’s still undefined program is but a distant dream) when trying to determine what the latest event’s results mean.

Or is that just me being a cynical member of the so-called media? Because, I must admit, I don’t have nearly the same difficulty with other redemption tales, such as Matt Brown’s. I know he didn’t win last night, but he once lost three straight and four out of five in the UFC. His comeback has been inspiring, at least to me, but do we not care unless it results in a gold belt at the end of the rainbow?

Downes: I don’t think it matters if there’s a gold belt, just as long as they never lose. Fans and your colleagues in the so-called media have impressions about fighters that they can’t escape no matter what happens. Some of the labels are fair; some aren’t.

After Anthony Pettis’ loss to Clay Guida, people immediately said, “That kid can’t wrestle.” After last night, the same people will jump up and say, “SEE! I told you he can’t wrestle!” while ignoring all the improvements he’s made. Is there anything he can do to shake off that label?

Edson Barboza has only been knocked out once in his career, and people still say he has a “glass jaw.” We always hear about Roy Nelson’s jiu-jitsu, but he hasn’t submitted anyone since 2006. Ben Askren could shoot a fireball from his eyes during a fight, and he’d still get accused of lay and pray.

We have our preconceived notions, and all the evidence in the world can’t change our minds. It’s a strange contradiction because we love redemption stories, but we also like indulging in a little schadenfreude. Whether it’s Khabib Nurmagamedov, Nate Diaz or some random fan, people like piling on the misery. Luckily for Twitter, kicks to a downed opponent are allowed.

Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis

Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis

Let’s say dos Anjos loses the title in the next fight. What do you think the story will be? Won’t he just be another overachiever? Look at Matt Serra. He’s become the poster boy for, “Hey, anyone can win a title!” The man actually won the UFC title and still can’t get the proper amount of respect.

Fowlkes: That’s actually a really good point. We do love to rewrite the past with our knowledge of the present, so it’s not hard to envision the same people who so very recently praised Pettis as tomorrow’s superstar later deriding him as another flavor of the month artificially inflated by the UFC hype machine.

But then, all this springs from the same place. Like you pointed out earlier, we’re uncomfortable with nuance, with doubt. We prefer bold, definitive statements, even if we’ll want to completely reverse them soon. Maybe it’s the nature of this sport, where we only see each fighter once every few months. We don’t get to gradually form an opinion over the course of a season. We jump from conclusion to conclusion, with no stopovers in between.

That’s what’s always seemed to me to be one of the most psychologically difficult aspects of this sport. You’re going to train for two or three months, and maybe it will be the best training camp of your life or maybe it will be fraught with peril, but either way we are going to form a totalizing theory about you based on, at most, 25 minutes worth of work on one Saturday night. If you don’t like our conclusions, you better get back in there soon and help us form new ones.

I could see how that kind of pressure might get the better of some people, even just temporarily, which in turn might give us all the wrong idea about them.

Is it so hard, then, to understand why it might take someone like dos Anjos seven years to find his stride? And are we so uncomfortable with the idea that every fighter is a work in progress, someone who is more than the sum total of their last few Saturday nights?

What is it about us that makes so eager to pinpoint a new truth every time and plant that particular flag in the ground. Would we really rather be wrong than be just a little bit patient?

Downes: We like being wrong more than being patient because it gives us another opportunity to come back with a strong opinion. “After reviewing the tape, I have to say that I was wrong about Rafael dos Anjos. THE MAN IS A BEAST! He’ll be champ for a long time. Time to usher in the RDA era!” Then, when that strong opinion proves false, we can come back with a similar correction about the new champion, and the cycle repeats.

The other reason we prefer wrongness over patience is because we don’t ever admit we were wrong. It’s one of the few instances where fans and media share something in common with fighters. You know how fighters never admit that they lose a fight? They either didn’t execute their gameplan, or something was just “off.” It’s the same with pundits, whether they be professional or amateur. We ignore the defeats and focus on the wins.

A bunch of people couldn’t wait to say, “I told you so!” when dos Anjos won. They linked to statements or text messages they had from weeks ago when they predicted that RDA would pull off the upset. They conveniently left out, however, all the other times when they contradicted themselves. That’s why when I play roulette, I ignore my friend Wesley Snipes and bet on black, red, 0 and 00. I always win.

It doesn’t matter if you’re at the roulette table or watching an MMA fight – we try to find patterns when there might not be any. We want to predict what’s going to happen when every day presents new difficulties that throw everything in chaos.

Remember what you thought your life was going to be like when you were 18? Remember what you were going to do with your life when you graduated from college? I bet you have a plan for where you want to be this time next year. Chances are that’s probably not going to turn out to be 100 percent true either.

Rafael dos Anjos is the UFC lightweight champion. It doesn’t matter if it’s a redemption or comeback story. It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be a tragic story six months from now. Today it’s just a great story.

For complete coverage more on UFC 188, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who also writes for and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

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