back to article Google CEO tells US Congress Chocolate Factory will unleash Dragonfly in China

Google's CEO Sundar Pichai appeared in front of a Congressional hearing this morning in a session that revealed two main things: he is still going to take the company into China, and Congresscritters have absolutely no idea what they are talking about when it comes to technology. The marathon three-and-a-half House committee …

  1. JohnFen Silver badge

    tl;dr

    Sundar Pichai: "We here at Google admit that we are full-on evil now."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: tl;dr

      Evil yes .... but we do follow the letter of the law in every country we operate ..... just Google it if you want to check.

      1. Ragarath

        Re: tl;dr

        You mean DragonFly it?

    2. pavel.petrman

      Re: tl;dr

      Re "Full-on evil": sadly, yes. Our hope now is that in twenty years time Page, Brin & Co. start to care about their legacy and go a bit Bill Gates. There's no guarantee, though, and if the China business goes well, there will be no need either.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    and so we always think it’s our duty to explore possibilities to give users Google access to information and profit

    Fixed that for him. If it's not profitable, Google will kill it.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "we have a stated mission of providing users with information"

      Funny. I always believed their stated mission was users providing Google with information - to sustain its ads business. Often "information" they had no rights upon, as in YouTube uploads.

      It could have been a huge assist - if only they knew what they were talking about.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: "we have a stated mission of providing users with information"

        They seem to have moved on and appointed themselves as the world's information source - similar to the 1984 Government. All your information must come from Google, and be approved by Google. Anything else will be censored and pushed down the page rankings.

  3. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
    WTF?

    "Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company," Pichai said in response to one question from Representative Steve King (R-IA).

    Exactly how many billions is Google paying Apple to be the default search engine? Not a different company at all in that view.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      No, you see, if it weren't a different company, then Google wouldn't have to pay Apple to be the default search engine.

      By your logic, Google and Microsoft are the same company because of the payments necessitated by the patents Google used in the Android OS.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Apple and Amazon sell each other products so they are the same company too. So Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft are all the same company! Pretty sure at least one employee in one of those companies has a Facebook account, so they are part of that company too!

  4. ratfox Silver badge

    I'm surprised nobody asked about the Maven project. Some people seemed especially riled that Google was considering censoring results in China after refusing to develop AI for US drones.

  5. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Meh

    I thought Google was supposed to 'do no evil'?

    If Dragonfly is a real thing, which they're apparently NOT (directly) admitting over at Google ('for China' wouldn't be the same as admitting they're creating a special 'filter' just for the communist regime to use AGAINST their own people), then the NEW motto should be: "Don't let anyone SEE US do evil" or "Don't ADMIT to doing evil".

    And WHAT! MAKES! ANYONE! BELIEVE! THEY! ARE! NOT! ALREADY! USING! the 'Dragonfly' "technology" TO! SILENCE! ANYONE! THEY! *FEEL*! DESERVES! IT! ??? (aka Conservatives, Critics, and Competition - and Enemies, oh my!!).

    I am definitely NOT buying their B.S.. And if they *FEEL* (the 'F' word) as if nobody in Congress can figure out when they're getting manipulated and condescended to, they are in for a BIG surprise. [OK most lawmakers probably ARE idiots, but at least a few of them aren't, and they're most likely NOT amused. I wouldn't be]

    1. arthoss

      Re: I thought Google was supposed to 'do no evil'?

      you must like Yahoo! a! Lot!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I thought Google was supposed to 'do no evil'?

        It's not "do no evil", it's "don't be evil"!

        Jokes aside, I've talked with a lot of people on that subject, and interestingly, it's people who come from China who are the most positive about Google's Dragonfly. From their point of view, everybody in China knows the Internet is censored, and that their private data is spied on by the government. So what's the big deal with Google doing the same?

        After all, if Google would be evil for doing Dragonfly, then every single company active in China is evil. Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, Weibo, Xiaomi, Huawei, Lenovo, but also Apple, Microsoft, IBM, etc...

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "it's people who come from China who are the most positive about Google's Dragonfly"

          I'm not surprised, and what people in China think of DragonFly is not the issue. The issue is if Western company should bend to Chinese censorship and state control of what people do online. Sure, Google is evil on is own and does control what people do online (and we should regulate to stop it) - but I haven't seen Google re-education camps yet.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: I thought Google was supposed to 'do no evil'?

          "everybody in China knows the Internet is censored, and that their private data is spied on by the government. So what's the big deal with Google doing the same?"

          The reason that I consider Google's efforts here to be evil isn't because of the censorship. Yes, object to that personally, but it pales compared to the real problem.

          The real problem isn't that if someone in China searches for something forbidden, they don't get relevant search results. The problem is that if they do such a search, Google assists in reporting them to the authorities.

          Whether or not the citizens of China are OK with this is not relevant in my view. What's relevant is this is Google supporting actions that I personally consider powerfully unethical and evil, making Google itself powerfully unethical and evil.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I thought Google was supposed to 'do no evil'?

            Google censors results in Europe to meet EU legislation - is that "evil" in your book too?

            Why should a shareholder owned company have to kowtow to the general public, or the lawmakers for that matter if they aren't breaking the law? Why can't they censor whoever they like? They are after all just an index to the real content which still exists. What obligation are they under to return any matches?

            Just because a company (or person) does something that you don't agree with isn't necessarily "evil", no matter how unethical it is.

    2. Dabooka Silver badge

      Re: I thought Google was supposed to 'do no evil'?

      Bloody hell Bob, that's virtually incoherent.

      Seriously, chill the fuck down and sort yourself out. It's not 4chan

    3. Comments are attributed to your handle

      Re: I thought Google was supposed to 'do no evil'?

      If only some of that Google tech could shut you up.

  6. DryBones

    I am immensely amused that Republicans have not put this one together, or just cannot bring themselves to admit it. Pictures of Trump are associated with 'the word idiot' because a lot of people think Trump is an idiot.

    Let's see here... "I'm not saying you're racist. I'm saying racists think you're a racist." Fiddle it around some...

    "I'm not saying you're an idiot. I'm saying a lot of idiots think you're one of them."

    Yes, no?

    1. The JP

      Its also interesting to see who comes top when you google images of "racist"....at least it is when I do it.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      That, and most likely people have also been "Google bombing" to help that along.

      Instead people come up with these crazy conspiracy theories that Google deliberately made that happen. They have a hard enough time preventing spam sites from "search aggregators" from reaching the first page of results to worry about tailoring results to piss off the poor snowflake Trumpists who are upset the world is against them and their orange Fuhrer.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Instead people come up with these crazy conspiracy theories that Google deliberately made that happen.

        But the official line is.. "It's not possible for an individual employee or group of employees to manipulate our search results,"

        Orly? So how do those sponsored links get to the top? Someone should have explained to their congresscritter that SEO is a multi-million $$$ business, especially given their campain funds probably get spent in that direction. Or it's just something that's done by people/groups for lolz. Shame Congress didn't ask what the going rate for "idiot' or "useful idiot" would be as adwords.

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge
          Boffin

          Clarification for those not in the business -

          PPC (pay per click) links are the sponsored links at the top of the page, managed through adwords; have the bejesus tracked out of them.

          SEO (search engine optimisation) links are put there by the algorithm that Google obfuscates to stop SEMs (search engine marketers) gaming the system too hard.

          For the sake of completeness, Google Shopping is PLA (product listing ads) or LIA (local inventory ads) and also paid but, certainly where I work, are treated as distinct entities for the different knowledge required in managing the adwords accounts.

          For the sake of further completeness, these are entirely seperate again to the banner and video ads that we all know, love and block.

        2. Teiwaz Silver badge

          But the official line is.. "It's not possible for an individual employee or group of employees to manipulate our search results,"

          Orly? So how do those sponsored links get to the top?

          That's not manipulation, that's intentional placement.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            If I was a billionaire, I'd pay for the adword for "idiot" and have it link to Trump's Twitter page, just to piss him off.

        3. JohnFen Silver badge

          "So how do those sponsored links get to the top?"

          Sponsored links are not search results. They're ads.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Sponsored links are not search results. They're ads.

            They're still manipulated results. Rather than the best match for a search query, they're the best buy. Manipulating results is Google's core business, along with SEO firms who offer to manipulate Google.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I am immensely amused that Republicans have not put this one together, or just cannot bring themselves to admit it. Pictures of Trump are associated with 'the word idiot' because a lot of people think Trump is an idiot.

      Note that question came from Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat, who obviously used that example for the lulz. I don't think Lofgren is under any impression that there's some conspiracy behind the Google Images results for "idiot"; she was just trying to get Pichai on record as claiming that Google search results are immune to tampering.

      I don't care to guess whether she believes that, and is using it as political hay against the conspiracy theorists, or whether she wanted to give Pichai enough room to accuse him of lying to Congress later. Or both. Generally, when you have some powerful person being questioned by Congress, the representatives (or senators, but in this case it was the House) who have some clue about these things try to get some fairly simple, definite answers out of them, because those are often useful one way or another.

      (And, incidentally, what's with this obsession with "Congressman" and "Congressmen", Kieren? Some of the representatives are women, y'know, and "representative" or "rep" is both more precise and less awkward.)

  7. Garymrrsn
    Facepalm

    Idiots of a feather flock together

    "Just as ridiculous was a question asking why a Google search result on the word "idiot" brought up images of President Trump."

    What is even more telling of the ignorance of US politicians is, that by asking that question in a public hearing, they helped push the "idiot=Trump" images to the top of the search results on Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and WebCrawler also.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Idiots of a feather flock together

      It was a democrat who asked that, so maybe she's smarter than you give her credit for - or far more likely someone on her staff is pretty smart about how Google works.

      Which wouldn't be surprising - it was Zoe Lofgren, whose district includes San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley. Now Trump = idiot tops the news results too...but I'm sure bombastic bob will claim that's part of the conspiracy!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Idiots of a feather flock together

      > they helped push the "idiot=Trump" images to the top of the search results

      Doubt it made much difference - I'd put money on 'dotard' still largely pulling up Trump images a decade after he's gone.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Idiots of a feather flock together

        After game & movie images, the first person "Traitor" get a picture of is, you guessed it, Trump.

    3. ratfox Silver badge
    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Idiots of a feather flock together

      by asking that question in a public hearing, they helped push the "idiot=Trump" images to the top of the search results on Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and WebCrawler also

      Yes, I'm sure that was the desired result. Look at who asked that question.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The classic track to politics is no longer suitable

    We are seeing how the classic track to politics is increasingly not suitable to understand the changes society is undergoing in these years. Many of them come from job and professions that insulated them into bubbles disconnected from the reality of many people. They don't understand technology, even if it is becoming pervasive, and refuse to understand they don't understand it. They got used to be regarded as the "clever ones", but in these situations they're not. Humility would be required to understand it, but that's not a usual trait of politicians. Executives will take advantage of it - go to the hearing, look tame, dodge the few real questions, and then, after the hearing, promise a huge cheque for the next campaign....

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: The classic track to politics is no longer suitable

      Hasn't that always been the case? The politicians of 100 years ago didn't identify with the common man who had to go fight in the trenches in WW I, while they pulled strings and got excused for made up ailments like "bone spurs" or were officers who stayed safely behind the lines at HQ. The politicians of 50 years ago didn't identify with the people who were protesting against Vietnam, or fighting for civil rights.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: The classic track to politics is no longer suitable

        You don't need to identify with the common man, but you need to understand how he/she lives, and what at stakes is. It looks to me that not a few politicians fought for civil rights. That was, after all, something they could understand. While the one who wanted to keep segregation very well understood their white voters, and knew what was at stake.

        Eisenhower was a good president, even if he managed the war from London. I don't believe, for example, Patton or MacArthur would have been good presidents - too much ego -, even if they were closer to their soldiers. Many of the worst dictators came from rank-and-file people.

        The main issue today is society is moving to something alike a "technocratic" one were the usual education of most politicians is not adequate to understand what is at stake - even if many understand perfectly what the "common man" think when they're going to reap votes.

        But now the "common man" it tracked, and can be manipulated by companies like Google. It's no surprise, for example, that behind "Five Star Movement" in Italy, and managing it, there is a private company ("Casaleggio Associates") whose founder was an expert in such techniques.

        How this underworld acts is beyond the usual politician knowledge. They believed they could use it, but I'm afraid the opposite is happening, and politicians have not the means to understand it, as they showed.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: The classic track to politics is no longer suitable

          It looks to me that not a few politicians fought for civil rights.

          They weren't politicians then. The guys who did like John Lewis were elected AFTER they did that - and because of it.

      2. fandom Silver badge

        Re: The classic track to politics is no longer suitable

        "The politicians of 100 years ago didn't identify with the common man who had to go fight in the trenches in WW I"

        Actually, after the clusterfuck in Gallipoli Churchill spent some time in the trenches.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It’s easy to mock the politicians, and many deserve it, but also consider that the industry has gone to considerable lengths to make up obscure terms. I mean it’s called a cookie because if you called it a tracking bug, everyone including politicians would understand what it was for.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "I mean it’s called a cookie because if you called it a tracking bug, everyone including politicians would understand what it was for."

      Calling cookies "tracking bugs" would be incorrect, though. Cookies are used for lots of things that have nothing to do with tracking.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Also, "cookie" in this sense has been a term of art since at least the mid 1980s, and probably earlier. See e.g. "magic cookie" in reference to some old VDU terminal types in the termcap documentation.

  10. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Bronze age redux.

    It's the closet I can get, apart from the Aboriginal word for I don't know. #kangaroo

    N.B. I ordered 4 things off the internet last week. The only thing that has arrived on time is from the Netherlands. Anecdotal but there might be something in it...

  11. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Google it

    "Congressman offered a variety of anecdotal examples to claim that Google had a secret liberal agenda but Pichai refused to bite and denied there was any inherent political bias within Google's products"

    Funny, that's not what the leaked Breitbart documents showed. Google is censoring Conservative voices and trying to influence elections - This much is fact from both the recordings and leaked documents from the top of Google, Pichai himself.

    For anyone not aware, (ironically) Google it and you'll find Pichai telling his staff they have to prevent another election of Donald Trump, and that they failed to elect Hillary, that they need to become the "Good Censor", and restrict freedom of speech of those with different ideals online, and leaked documents on how they rig search and shape opinions and censor online, with the aim of protecting Facebook and Twitter's monopolies in the same pursuit of online bias and censorship. The three are corrupt.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As long as you can follow Breitbart...

      ... where is the issue? Do you need Google to find Breitbart?

    2. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Google it

      This is all very tricky. They should censor hate speech, racism, incitements to violence and similar criminal activities.

      Almost all of such stuff comes from the right wing.

      If the far right don't want their messages to be censored they should stick to the rule of law and not promote hate, racism and violence. Won't happen as without hate & racism they don't really have much to say except "tax the poor, reward the rich" which they try not to say in public.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: Google it

        "Almost all of such stuff comes from the right wing"

        Bullshit. And even if it did. What business is it of Google to censor the web?

        They're supposed to be a search engine, not a global web nanny. If Google becomes biased we all find the wrong information based on what Google wants us to see, instead of what we actually search for.

        Try the same search on DuckDuckGo and then Google...

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Google it

          Bullshit. And even if it did. What business is it of Google to censor the web?

          That's why congresscritters and other politicians are taking an interest. Google is a private enterprise, so can set it's own rules. If users break those rules, Google is free to ToS them. But Google's a big beast and gateway for a lot of the world, so has the ability to influence people, not just flog ads.

          If it's using it's influence to bias results to the left or right, that's its own choice. It's execs have been pretty open about supporting Democrats. As long as that's within lobbyin/election funding guidelines, that's legal.. Especially if we're aware of any bias.

          Where I think it gets murkier is when it gets into censorship, and 'free speech' or First Amendment issues. Some speech is protected, some is not and different countries have different laws regarding what's acceptable that Google must obey, if it operates in those jurisdictions. Hate speech is hate, regardless if it's thrown left or right.

          Politically I think the web giants are going to face pressure to comply with electoral rules, so influencers can be identified. So "Trump is an idiot" comes with a tag showing it's sponsored by the DNC. And just did my bit for SEO I guess.

        2. DJO Silver badge

          Re: Google it

          No it's not bullshit.

          The biggest threat in the USA is from domestic right wing terror groups, the most fatalities have been caused by white American right wing racists.

          In Europe most fatal attacks are carried out by white extreme-right racists.

          Any violence from left leaning groups is rare and quite possibly caused by agent provocateurs - Look at the UK police infiltration, spied on over 100 left wing groups and 3 right wing groups while all the violence came from the right.

          And even if it did. What business is it of Google to censor the web?

          Well the law prohibits racism, hate speech and promotion of violence from any source so it is their duty to censor it otherwise they would be breaking the law.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Google it

            Well the law prohibits racism, hate speech and promotion of violence from any source so it is their duty to censor it otherwise they would be breaking the law.

            Citation. Fucking. Needed.

        3. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Google it

          What business is it of Google to censor the web?

          Even if Google do curate their results, it cannot be thought of as censoring the web, unless you think the Google search portal is the web.

          This the same issue that came up recently with users of Facebook complaining of facebooks practices.

          If you don't like how a company operates - don't use them! Find a different search engine.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Google it

            "If you don't like how a company operates - don't use them! Find a different search engine"

            A million times this. I don't use Google to search (not because of this particular issue, as I think that it's BS) because I don't like how Google operates both with search and generally.

  12. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    a top hat and a monocle?

    I thought Rees-Mogg was committed to adding to the general sense of farce in Westminster

  13. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Poor, poor Congress

    Things have really gone downhill if they let Monopoly Man in with sacks of fake money.

    Used to be, they would require the man have sacks of REAL money...

  14. Vanir

    Todays Western politicians ...

    have to learn that what you cannot understand you cannot control.

    Information and IT IS understood by the likes of Google and repressive non-democratic governments.

    So they can and do control it and by logical induction people.

    It seems that the US Congress thinks it is control of Google, Facebook and Apple etc.

  15. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

    Was I the only one?

    Adding to the general sense of farce, a man dressed as Monopoly Man, complete with a bag of fake cash, a top hat and a monocle sat a few rows behind Pichai, pulling various faces in an effort to photobomb proceedings.

    Was I the only one who had to scroll back to the top of to check the image on the top of the article for this?

    1. Is It Me

      Re: Was I the only one?

      No, I did exactly the same

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Was I the only one?

      The caption for the photo directs the reader right to him. Did you not read the caption, or did the editor add that later?

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

        Re: Was I the only one?

        Totally didn't read the caption!

  16. naive

    The solution is simple, if it is too big to oversee, break it up

    And that is what should be done with big tech. Break them all up, impose a moratorium on the remaining big parts which forbids them to buy other companies.

    By separating the search engine, android, maps, but also cutting facebook into pieces, shedding off instagram and whatsapp, the world gets rid of the all controlling molochs, who control us and wave their middle finger to everyone, including tax and internal revenue services. Same goes for Microsoft, which should split off its OS division from Azure and Office apps. If it is done in one swipe, involving all of them, then we will be better off on the long term, allowing new ideas to bloom.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The solution is simple, if it is too big to oversee, break it up

      Agreed. Google should be forced to sell off YouTube, Google Cloud and Android/Chrome.

  17. adam payne Silver badge

    "One of the things that’s important to us as a company, we have a stated mission of providing users with information, and so we always think it’s our duty to explore possibilities to give users access to information. What's your stated mission for China?

    Providing users with information (as long as the local government approves of it), doesn't have the same grandiose ring to it, does it?

  18. Roger Kynaston
    Happy

    In other news

    an actual chocolate factory in Germany poured a ton of the stuff into the street.

  19. DavCrav Silver badge

    "Monopoly Man"

    His name is Milburn Pennybags. I can't believe I'm the first person to point this out.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      This is what we come to the Reg comments section for - precise, accurate technical information.

  20. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

    Don't tip over the island

    Conversing with congressmen is a grab bag of fun.

    Some may really know what you do, some kinda know what you do, and others wonder why Google turned off the internet the other day when their browser couldn't connect.

  21. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Conspiracy Theory #8639

    Has no one else considered that Google et al are grooming and infiltrating moles into congressional staff specifically to feed these old farts questions designed to make them look like idiots?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Conspiracy Theory #8639

      They don't need any help with that...

  22. fred base

    Political theater aside?!?

    There is no other side - the whole circus is an exercise in grandstanding.

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