Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Big Tech Under Fire

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The global empire of Googledom is under attack. Over the past year, the tech behemoth (and its parent company, Alphabet Inc.) has sustained some serious body blows. And more appear to be coming. Most recently, billionaire tech titan Peter Thiel (PayPal, Palantir Technologies, Clarium Capital, Founders Fund) grabbed headlines and shook markets by calling for an investigation by the FBI and CIA of Google for having “engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military.” Calls have been growing on both sides of the political aisle for the federal government to regulate, or even take over, the social media and search engine operations of Google and other Big Tech firms.

Here is some of the heavy pummeling Google has been receiving:

• Senior Google engineer Dr. Greg Coppola, in a video interview, has accused Google and other Big Tech companies of “taking sides in a political contest,” which he characterized as “dangerous.”  “Are we going to just let the biggest tech companies decide who wins every election from now on?” he asked.

• Dr. Robert Epstein, a leading technology-psychology scientist (and a Hillary Clinton supporter), testified to Congress that “Google presents a serious threat to democracy and human autonomy,” and presented extensive research to back his charges concerning Google’s “politically biased search results,” “massive surveillance,” “censorship,” and “voter manipulation.” 

• Google research scientist Jack Poulson quit the company in protest over its plans to go ahead with its secret Project Dragonfly, a search engine for Communist China that enables the regime to better censor, monitor, and surveil its citizens.

• More than 1,400 Google employees signed an internal petition calling on the company to end Dragonfly because the “Chinese government is one of the worst human-rights abusers in the world today,” and objecting to the transference of  “technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable.”

• An alliance of more than a dozen human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders, called on Google to end Dragonfly.

• U.S. Vice President Mike Pence blasted Google and called on it to “immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers.”

•  Google recently lost its effort to dismiss the wrongful termination lawsuit of ex-Google engineer James Damore, who was fired in 2017, he says, because he was illegally discriminated against for being conservative, male, and Caucasian.

• A leaked 85-page Google briefing, entitled “The Good Censor,” admits that Google, Facebook, and Twitter now “control the majority of online conversations” and have adopted a “shift towards censorship.”

• In March of this year, Google was fined €1.52 billion ($1.69 billion U.S.) by the European Union, bringing the total fines against the company in three separate cases to  €8.2 billion ($9.1 billion U.S.) for alleged illegal business practices. France also fined it €50 million ($55.6 million U.S.) for data privacy violations.

The list goes on and on. While any combination of these punches might have proven fatal to many companies, Google-Alphabet keeps rolling, seemingly unaffected and unrepentant. Its executives act as though their company’s ginormous size grants them immunity and impunity to act as they will. Their arrogance is proof of Lord Acton’s maxim that power corrupts. They do, after all, exemplify worldly power. Google is ubiquitous, its digital/cultural footprint on the planet unmatched. Its very name has been turned into a verb and is invoked for searches, according to SEOtribunal.com, at least 63,000 times per second on any given day.  That “translates into at least 2 trillion searches per year, 3.8 million searches per minute, 228 million searches per hour, and 5.6 billion searches per day” — and more than 90 percent of the search engine market share worldwide.

It also accounts for 75 percent of mobile browsing, 70 percent of desktop browsing, and along with Facebook, 50 percent of online ads.

What’s more, notes SEO Tribunal, the Google-owned video giant YouTube “is the second-largest search engine, right after Google. It’s bigger than Bing, Yahoo!, and Ask combined,” and has 1.9 billion users monthly. 

As the planet’s overwhelmingly dominant search engine, Google wields unparalleled power over everyone’s access to information, from the trivial to the essential. However, even though it is best known for its search engine, Google (and its newer “parent” company, Alphabet) have expanded into entirely new fields: cloud computing (Google Drive), artificial intelligence (Deep Mind), browser (Google Chrome), smartphone (Google Pixel), Internet carrier (Google Fiber), mapping (Google Earth, Google Maps), language translation (Google Translate), and much more. 

As we have reported in The New American previously, various studies have exposed Google’s blatant political bias in the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections, where the search giant boosted Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, respectively, over Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, by giving tens of millions more links to the Democrat candidates.

Giving Conservatives the Boot

Since Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections, Big Tech globalists have been escalating their attacks on conservative news sites, websites, bloggers, and commentators. The weapons they are using are demonetizing, censoring, shadow banning, temporary suspension, and — when those measures fail to achieve the desired suppression of alternate viewpoints — outright banning, also known as “deplatforming.” Deplatforming is the preferred Big Tech weapon of the day, banishing troublesome “thought-crime” practitioners to the cyber netherworld. The big D-Day for initiating the deplatforming offensive was August 6, 2018, when YouTube joined with Apple, Facebook, and Spotify in sending all content by Alex Jones and his mega-popular Infowars down the Orwellian memory hole. Poof! In an instant, thousands of Infowars’ videos, podcasts, and articles disappeared. The tech giants offered no proof of actual “hate crimes” to justify bouncing Jones — along with his 2.5 million subscribers — off his platform. 

As The New American warned at the time, Big Tech’s purge of Jones/Infowars was bound to be only the opening salvo in its Stalinist cyber jihad against all who refused to kowtow to political correctness. That has proven to be true, as a host of right-leaning victims has been slammed by GoogTwitFaceApp with demonetizing, censoring, and/or deplatforming: Paul Joseph Watson, Mike Adams and Natural News, Dennis Prager and Prager University, Candace Owens, Michelle Malkin, Steven Crowder, James Woods, Peter Van Buren, Tommy Robinson, Milo Yiannopoulos, Robert Spencer, Laura Loomer, Project Veritas, Gavin McInnes, The New American, and many more.

Insider In-fighting

Peter Thiel’s charges against Google are especially provocative — and, potentially, the most damaging. Why? Because: a) As a fellow Silicon Valley titan, he has conspicuously broken ranks with the brotherhood of left-wing cyber billionaires that is boosting the “progressive” Democrats’ political machine with funds and technical aid; b) He is Trump’s most high-profile Big Tech supporter and presumably has close ties to the White House, and; c) He has dared to use the “T” word — treason — in connection with Google’s business dealings with communist China.

The essence of Thiel’s treason charge against Google was posed in the form of three questions to Google that the PayPal founder worked into his speech before the National Conservatism Conference on July 14.

According to Thiel, Google “should be asked”:

“Number one, how many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated your Manhattan Project for AI [artificial intelligence]?”;

 “Number two, does Google’s senior management consider itself to have been thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence?”

“Number three, is it because they consider themselves to be so thoroughly infiltrated that they have engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military ... because they are making the sort of bad, short-term rationalistic [decision] that if the technology doesn’t go out the front door, it gets stolen out the backdoor anyway?”

Thiel’s remarks provided a strong accent to the many serious accusations about the growing intimacy between Google and Beijing leveled by the experts cited above, particularly as it relates to Project Dragonfly. His weighing in on this issue is particularly curious inasmuch as it runs completely contrary to what is otherwise the virtually unanimous love-struck narrative between Big Tech/Big Money and Beijing, especially as exemplified by Thiel’s fellow Bilderberg attendees. Thiel has become a regular at these annual high-powered, super-secret confabs of the globalist uber-elites, and Bilderbergers such as David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, and George Soros have been in the forefront of boosting China’s military, economy, and technology for decades.

In his letter last August to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, Google research scientist Jack Poulson charged that Dragonfly would, among other things, help track search-engine users, assist the communist censors, and help the regime’s propagandists whitewash China’s data on its abysmal air quality. “Some of the most disturbing components of Project Dragonfly,” wrote Coulson, “which I here directly verify, include”: 

• A prototype interface designed to allow a Chinese joint venture company to search for a given user’s search queries based on their phone number.

• An extensive censorship blacklist developed in accordance with Chinese government demands. Among others, it contained the English term ‘human rights’, the Mandarin terms for ‘student protest’ and ‘Nobel prize’....

• Explicit code to ensure only Chinese government-approved air quality data would be returned in response to Chinese users’ search.

Poulson felt strongly enough about the matter to resign from Google in protest.

For its part, Google has tried to soothe concerns by claiming that its project with China was merely in the early exploration stage and not about to be realized in the near future. Google’s Keith Enright told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on September 26 that “we are not close to launching a product in China.” Ben Gomes, Google’s head of search, told the BBC last September: “Right now all we’ve done is some exploration, but since we don’t have any plans to launch something there’s nothing much I can say about it.”

However, that cover story was quickly shot full of holes. Whistleblowers at Google disturbed by the company’s collaboration with China’s dictators posted an internal memo expressing ethical concerns about participating in the program. According to Breitbart.com, one Google source characterized Gomes’ comments to the BBC about Project Dragonfly as “bull****.” The Intercept reported that “employees working on the censored search engine were instructed in late July, days before the project was publicly exposed, that they should prepare to get it into a ‘launch-ready state’ to roll out within weeks, pending approval from officials in Beijing.”

In August of 2018, more than 1,400 Google employees signed an internal petition calling on the company to cease work on Dragonfly. When that failed to have effect, more than 500 employees signed a letter expressing their opposition to continued cooperation in the project.

“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 employees wrote. Dragonfly, they charged, “would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.”

The employees noted that Google’s decision to proceed with Dragonfly “comes as the Chinese government is openly expanding its surveillance powers and tools of population control.” They further maintained, “Providing the Chinese government with ready access to user data, as required by Chinese law, would make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses.”

“Dragonfly would also enable censorship and government-directed disinformation, and destabilize the ground truth on which popular deliberation and dissent rely,” they continued. 

Employee Rebuttal

In July, Project Veritas, which became famous with its hidden-camera videos exposing left-wing hypocrisy and criminality, opened a new phase in the speaking-truth-to-Google-power war with the release of a video interview with senior Google engineer Dr. Greg Coppola. Unlike Poulson, who resigned, and many other former Google employees, Dr. Coppola was a current employee at the time of the interview. (He has since been placed on administrative leave by Google.) And unlike current Google whistleblowers who only speak anonymously to avoid retaliation — Dr. Coppola sat down with Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe for a calm but riveting on-camera, on-the-record interview.

In response to the repeated claims of Google executives that the company’s search algorithms are unbiased and “politically neutral,” Coppola says: “I have a Ph.D., I have five years’ experience at Google and I just know how algorithms are. They don’t write themselves. We write them to do what we want them to do.”

“I think we’re just at a really important point in human history,” Coppola said, adding, “I think for a while we had tech that was politically neutral. Now we have tech that really, first of all is taking sides in a political contest, which I think, you know, anytime you have big corporate power merging with political parties can be dangerous.” The Google scientist further averred that technology is being used to manipulate people, and warned, “It’s a time to decide, you know, do we run the technology, does the technology run us?” He also asked, “Are we going to just let the biggest tech companies decide who wins every election from now on?”

Dr. Coppola called “ridiculous” Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s December 2018 congressional testimony that Google’s algorithms are politically unbiased. “I report to Sundar, of course. And I have a great deal of respect for him as a manager,” but, “I think it’s ridiculous to say that there’s no bias. I think everyone who supports anything other than the Democrats, anyone who’s pro-Trump or in any way deviates from what CNN and the New York Times are pushing, notices how bad it is.” 

Photo credit: filipefrazao/iStock/GettyImagesPlus

This article originally appeared in the August 19, 2019 print edition of The New American. The New American publishes a print magazine twice a month, covering issues such as politics, money, foreign policy, environment, culture, and technology. To subscribe, click here.

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