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posted by takyon on Monday October 15 2018, @09:25AM   Printer-friendly

Republican Senators Demand Answers about Google+ Cover-up

Senators Thune, Wicker, and Moran Letter to Google

takyon: Three Senators have written a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai requesting responses to several questions about the recent Google+ breach.

Also at Reuters, Ars Technica, and The Verge.

How Google's China Project Undermines its Claims to Political Neutrality

Submitted via IRC for chromas

How Google's China project undermines its claims to political neutrality

The company's official position on content moderation remains political neutrality, a spokeswoman told me in an email:

Google is committed to free expression — supporting the free flow of ideas is core to our mission. Where we have developed our own content policies, we enforce them in a politically neutral way. Giving preference to content of one political ideology over another would fundamentally conflict with our goal of providing services that work for everyone.

Of course, it's impossible to read the report or Google's statement without considering Project Dragonfly. According to Ryan Gallagher's ongoing reporting at The Intercept, Google's planned Chinese search engine will enable anything but the free flow of ideas. Even in an environment where American users are calling for tech platforms to limit users' freedoms in exchange for more safety and security, many still recoil at the idea of a search engine that bans search terms in support of an authoritarian regime.

And that's the unresolvable tension at the heart of this report. Almost all of us would agree that some restrictions on free speech are necessary. But few of us would agree on what those restrictions should be. Being a good censor — or at least, a more consistent censor — is within Google's grasp. But being a politically neutral one is probably impossible.

See also: Senator Says Google Failed to Answer Key Questions on China

Related: Leaked Transcript Contradicts Google's Denials About Censored Chinese Search Engine


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2Original Submission #3

Related Stories

Google+ Shut Down After Data Breach and Cover-Up are Exposed 18 comments

Google+ shutting down after users' data is exposed

Google is shutting down much of its social network, Google+, after user data was left exposed. It said a bug in its software meant information that people believed was private had been accessible by third parties. Google said up to 500,000 users had been affected.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the company knew about the issue in March but did not disclose it. The WSJ quoted an internal Google memo that said doing so would draw "immediate regulatory interest".

In a statement, the firm said the issue was not serious enough to inform the public. "Our Privacy and Data Protection Office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response. None of these thresholds were met here."

Also at The Verge, Engadget, and CNBC.


Original Submission

Leaked Transcript Contradicts Google's Denials About Censored Chinese Search Engine 31 comments

Leaked Transcript of Private Meeting Contradicts Google's Official Story on China

"We have to be focused on what we want to enable," said Ben Gomes, Google's search engine chief. "And then when the opening happens, we are ready for it." It was Wednesday, July 18, and Gomes was addressing a team of Google employees who were working on a secretive project to develop a censored search engine for China, which would blacklist phrases like "human rights," "student protest," and "Nobel Prize."

"You have taken on something extremely important to the company," Gomes declared, according to a transcript of his comments obtained by The Intercept. "I have to admit it has been a difficult journey. But I do think a very important and worthwhile one. And I wish ourselves the best of luck in actually reaching our destination as soon as possible." [...] Gomes, who joined Google in 1999 and is one of the key engineers behind the company's search engine, said he hoped the censored Chinese version of the platform could be launched within six and nine months, but it could be sooner. "This is a world none of us have ever lived in before," he said. "So I feel like we shouldn't put too much definite into the timeline."

[...] Google has refused to answer questions or concerns about Dragonfly. On Sept. 26, a Google executive faced public questions on the censorship plan for the first time. Keith Enright told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that there "is a Project Dragonfly," but said "we are not close to launching a product in China." When pressed to give specific details, Enright refused, saying that he was "not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of scope for that project."

Senior executives at Google directly involved in building the censorship system have largely avoided any public scrutiny. But on Sept. 23, Gomes briefly addressed Dragonfly when confronted by a BBC reporter at an event celebrating Google's 20th anniversary. "Right now, all we've done is some exploration," Gomes told the reporter, "but since we don't have any plans to launch something, there's nothing much I can say about it." Gomes' statement kept with the company's official line. But it flatly contradicted what he had privately told Google employees who were working on Dragonfly — which disturbed some of them. One Google source told The Intercept Gomes's comments to the BBC were "bullshit."

Here's an article written by Dave Lee, the BBC reporter that Ben Gomes misled.

Previously: Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal
Uproar at Google after News of Censored China Search App Breaks
"Senior Google Scientist" Resigns over Chinese Search Engine Censorship Project
Google Suppresses Internal Memo About China Censorship; Eric Schmidt Predicts Internet Split


Original Submission

Internet Archive Moving to Preserve Google+ Posts before April Shutdown 8 comments

The Internet Archive is working to preserve public Google+ posts before it shuts down

Google is set to begin deleting data from its beleaguered social network, Google+ in April, but before that happens, the Internet Archive and the ArchiveTeam say that they are working to preserve public posts on the platform before they vanish forever.

In a post on Reddit, the sites announced that they had begun their efforts to archive the posts using scripts to capture and back up the data in an effort to preserve it. The teams say that their efforts will only encompass posts that are currently available to the public: they won't be able to back up posts that are marked private or deleted. They also urge people who don't want their content to be archived to delete their accounts, and pointed to a procedure to request the removal of specific content. They also note that they won't be able to capture everything: comment threads have a limit of 500 comments, "but only presents a subset of these as static HTML. It's not clear that long discussion threads will be preserved." They also say that images and video won't be preserved at full resolution.

Related: Google+ Shut Down After Data Breach and Cover-Up are Exposed
Senators Demand Answers About Google+ Breach; Project Dragonfly Undermines Google's Neutrality
Google+ Bug Exposes Non-Public Profile Data for 52 Million Users
Death of Google+ Causing Angst


Original Submission

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Testifies before the U.S. Congress 61 comments

Google's Sundar Pichai was grilled on privacy, data collection, and China during congressional hearing

Google's CEO testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday where lawmakers grilled him on a wide range of issues, including potential political bias on its platforms, its plans for a censored search app in China and its privacy practices.

This is the first time Pichai has appeared before Congress since Google declined to send him or Alphabet CEO Larry Page to a hearing on foreign election meddling earlier this year. That slight sparked anger among senators who portrayed Google as trying to skirt scrutiny.

[...] Tuesday's hearing was titled "Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use, and Filtering Practices" and many representatives posed questions on whether or not Google's search results were biased against conservative points of view.

[...] Another topic that came up multiple times was Google's plan to launch a censored search engine in China. The Intercept first reported details of the project over the summer, which would block search results for queries that the Chinese government deemed sensitive, like "human rights" and "student protest" and link users' searches to their personal phone numbers. [...] "Right now, we have no plans to launch search in China," Pichai answered, adding that access to information is "an important human right."

Also at Bloomberg and The Hill.

See also: Sundar Pichai had to explain to Congress why Googling 'idiot' turns up pictures of Trump
Google CEO admits company must better address the spread of conspiracy theories on YouTube
Alex Jones, Roger Stone crash Google CEO hearing
Monopoly man watches disapprovingly as Congress yells at Google's CEO

Previously: Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China, Leaked Documents Reveal
Uproar at Google after News of Censored China Search App Breaks
"Senior Google Scientist" Resigns over Chinese Search Engine Censorship Project
Google Suppresses Internal Memo About China Censorship; Eric Schmidt Predicts Internet Split
Leaked Transcript Contradicts Google's Denials About Censored Chinese Search Engine
Senators Demand Answers About Google+ Breach; Project Dragonfly Undermines Google's Neutrality


Original Submission

Is Ethical A.I. Even Possible? 35 comments

Is Ethical A.I. Even Possible?

When a news article revealed that Clarifai was working with the Pentagon and some employees questioned the ethics of building artificial intelligence that analyzed video captured by drones, the company said the project would save the lives of civilians and soldiers.

"Clarifai's mission is to accelerate the progress of humanity with continually improving A.I.," read a blog post from Matt Zeiler, the company's founder and chief executive, and a prominent A.I. researcher. Later, in a news media interview, Mr. Zeiler announced a new management position that would ensure all company projects were ethically sound.

As activists, researchers, and journalists voice concerns over the rise of artificial intelligence, warning against biased, deceptive and malicious applications, the companies building this technology are responding. From tech giants like Google and Microsoft to scrappy A.I. start-ups, many are creating corporate principles meant to ensure their systems are designed and deployed in an ethical way. Some set up ethics officers or review boards to oversee these principles.

But tensions continue to rise as some question whether these promises will ultimately be kept. Companies can change course. Idealism can bow to financial pressure. Some activists — and even some companies — are beginning to argue that the only way to ensure ethical practices is through government regulation.

"We don't want to see a commercial race to the bottom," Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, said at the New Work Summit in Half Moon Bay, Calif., hosted last week by The New York Times. "Law is needed."

Possible != Probable. And the "needed law" could come in the form of a ban and/or surveillance of coding and hardware-building activities.

Related:


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by Spamalope on Monday October 15 2018, @11:17AM (2 children)

    by Spamalope (5233) on Monday October 15 2018, @11:17AM (#748960) Homepage

    Does making demonstrably false claims like that attach liability for a publicly traded company?

    "The company's official position on content moderation remains political neutrality" - that's been shown to lean left with search/recommended results as well as bans/de-monitization you youtube. (i.e. Google takes sides in a particular election. Negative search results are buried for the supported candidate, positives buried for the other.)

    The question becomes what should the consequences be, and in our imperfect world what will they be.

    I doubt these politicians give a damn about the breach, but they do know who's been their opponent while claiming neutrality. And by using the same BS here, google gives them an opening to try and get digs in on both.

    I've got my popcorn ready!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15 2018, @06:02PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15 2018, @06:02PM (#749162)

      "The company's official position on content moderation remains political neutrality" - that's been shown to lean left with search/recommended results as well as bans/de-monitization you youtube. (i.e. Google takes sides in a particular election. Negative search results are buried for the supported candidate, positives buried for the other.)

      Main subject of this article is Facebook's recent (10/11) "mass purge of left-wing political pages as part of an ongoing conspiracy by the state and the technology monopolies to censor the internet." However, there is information relevant to Google and their so-called "political neutrality." I'm assuming that by "left-wing" you mean the pro-capitalist Democratic Party and the various pseudo-left organizations in their orbit.

      Facebook’s purge of left-wing media: A frontal assault on freedom of speech [wsws.org]:

      Immediately following the 2016 US elections, in which public hostility to Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate of the US military/intelligence apparatus, was increased by WikiLeaks’ exposure of Clinton’s corrupt ties to Wall Street, the US media launched a campaign to smear oppositional viewpoints as Russian-inspired “fake news.” The New York Times and the Washington Post, political figures including Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff and Democratic Senator Mark Warner, and the US intelligence apparatus fabricated a narrative of “Russian meddling” in order to pressure the technology monopolies to shut down and censor political opposition.

      The leading role in this campaign was played by Google, which announced in April 2017 that it would promote “authoritative” news sources over “alternative” viewpoints by manipulating search results.

      In August of 2017, the World Socialist Web Site reported that search traffic to 13 left-wing, socialist and anti-war sites plunged after Google implemented these changes to its search algorithm. A leading target was the World Socialist Web Site itself, which saw its Google search traffic fall by 75 percent following the announcement....

      There is no longer a question as to whether US technology companies are consciously engaged in political censorship. Their half-hearted denials have been exposed as lies [wsws.org] by an internal Google research document published last week. The documents states that the technology monopolies have moved away from “free speech and towards censorship,” rejecting the “American tradition that prioritizes free speech for democracy.”

      ...PropOrNot, a shadowy organization whose 2016 blacklist, published by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post, helped launch the censorship campaign, hailed Facebook’s purge of accounts. In so doing, it made clear that this was only the beginning.

      PropOrNot pointed out that all of the organizations targeted by Facebook still “have websites,” and added, “but one thing at a time.” In other words, after removing targeted publications from search results and shutting down their social media accounts, the next step will be the forcible suppression of the websites themselves.

      That sounds like a cue for Google or even hosting companies and ISPs to do the needful. Point is that this is not merely some paranoid "alt-right" hallucination, and it is happening to all oppositional viewpoints.

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday October 15 2018, @09:20PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Monday October 15 2018, @09:20PM (#749225)

      Does making demonstrably false claims like that attach liability for a publicly traded company?

      Surely you must be joking! A publicly traded company making demonstrably false claims to the press is called "public relations". And making those same demonstrably false claims to the government is called "regulatory compliance".

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by realDonaldTrump on Monday October 15 2018, @01:27PM

    by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Monday October 15 2018, @01:27PM (#749007) Homepage Journal

    "Now that Google+ has been shuttered, I should air my dirty laundry on how awful the project and exec team was. I'm still pissed about the bait and switch they pulled by telling me I'd be working on Chrome, then putting me on this god forsaken piece of shit on day one." Morgan Knutson of Google. twitter.com/morganknutson/status/1049523067506966529 [twitter.com]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15 2018, @02:26PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15 2018, @02:26PM (#749045)

    No such thing!

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Monday October 15 2018, @03:23PM (2 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 15 2018, @03:23PM (#749088) Homepage Journal

    They are trying to pass that phrase off as something similar to "fair and balanced" from Fox. They want you to believe that they don't have, don't want, a party affiliation. And, if you're naive or gullible, that's how you might read the phrase.

    Think back, over the years in history. What ideology do corporations have? Profit, of course. IBM, for instance, was perfectly happy to provide data acquisition, and data analysis for the Nazis, for as long as there was profit in it. The Hudson Bay company deemed that it was profitable to pay for Indian scalps, so they paid for scalps. The India company saw fit to do a lot of things for profit - thereby making Ghandi a hero.

    Now, with that sort of context, re-read that "politically neutral" bullshit. Google is stating, as plainly as they know how, that they don't give much of a damn about human rights, or political issues. Google will cater to whoever has the money - whether the money holder be Communist, Capitalist, an African warlord, or the head of a drug cartel. And, they would assist a Nazi government in manipulating data just as readily as IBM did prior to and during WW2.

    You'll note that I'm not even "reading between the lines" here. I am simply shifting the context in which you read their statement. Profit, first, everything else be damned.

    --
    "no more than 8 bullets in a round" - Joe Biden
    • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Monday October 15 2018, @03:54PM

      by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday October 15 2018, @03:54PM (#749100) Journal

      Profit, first, everything else be damned.

      Yes, that's what "politically neutral" means. Being "politically neutral" is very profitable. Besides, most people who preach politics (and religion) really do so for profit. Behind it all is, *what's in it for me?*

      --
      La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
    • (Score: 2) by Pslytely Psycho on Tuesday October 16 2018, @05:05AM

      by Pslytely Psycho (1218) on Tuesday October 16 2018, @05:05AM (#749408)

      You're right, politically neutral is a hollow slogan that is neither meaningful nor possible.
      Everyone is biased, and the bias of those in charge of a company can't help but bleed through.
      Republicans, Democrat, Libertarian, simply doesn't matter. It's one biased viewpoint pointing at the other biased viewpoint and screaming "BIAS!"
      All rather amusing when you see the absurdity of it.

      http://rs334.pbsrc.com/albums/m440/paul939/cartoons_06-10.jpg~c200 [pbsrc.com]

      --
      Alex Jones lawyer inspires new TV series: CSI Moron Division.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15 2018, @04:00PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15 2018, @04:00PM (#749104)

    So "Senators Demand Answers" about some tech company (which they do not understand) and the breach (which they do not understand) of a platform (which they do not understand) so they can ... well ... ask mark Zuckerberg more softball questions?

    Yes, yes, Zuck has nothing to do with this, but the senators who demand answers probably don't know that. And they still may not know it (or understand it) once they are told. Tell them to ask some guy named Larry (but not Curly or Moe).

    Normally I would advise my senator to ask his children (or grandchildren), but I doubt even they would know (or care) what Google+ is. So we'll have another inquiry into something the government wants to regulate but doesn't comprehend.

  • (Score: 2) by linkdude64 on Monday October 15 2018, @04:56PM (2 children)

    by linkdude64 (5482) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 15 2018, @04:56PM (#749131)

    One of my big pet peeves.

    In other news: Google is run by SJWs who are self-professed communists, and a special report at 11: Doublethink: How humanist Communists overlook the millions upon millions more dead caused by their ideology than fascism.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday October 15 2018, @10:53PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday October 15 2018, @10:53PM (#749266) Journal

      Is there a browser setting that neutralizes that by just always opening a PDF link as a new tab (both Chrome and Firefox have a built-in reader)? It seems like something you would not want to allow the website to control.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16 2018, @01:32PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16 2018, @01:32PM (#749513)

      Whoosh! There's that smell of burning straw again. Just because Google are wrong doesn't mean the alt-right are right. (Ask any Greek; by this logic, they are all Socrates.)

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