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Bryan Cranston
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Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Google employees sign open letter demanding end to Project Dragonfly

Project Dragonfly aims to help the Chinese government build a censored search engine that would "blacklist" information that officials don't like.

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
  • More than 80 employees have signed the letter so far.
  • The protest comes in the wake of Google employees protesting sexual misconduct within the company and Project Maven, in which Google was helping the U.S. government analyze military drone footage.
  • Google employees are planning walkouts over Project Dragonfly, according to reports.

Scores of Google employees have signed an open letter protesting Project Dragonfly, a controversial effort to build a censored search engine in China.

In early August, The Intercept revealed Google's plans to work with the Chinese government to create a search engine app that would "comply with the country's strict censorship laws, restricting access to content that Xi Jinping's Communist Party regime deems unfavorable." In other words, it would "blacklist" information about political opponents, free speech, sex, news, academic studies, and references to "anticommunism" and historical events like the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

As of Tuesday, 84 employees had signed the letter that was posted to Medium. The employees wrote that they're not protesting China, but rather the establishment of a dangerous precedent that would "aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be."

"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…Reports are already showing who bears the cost, including Uyghurs, women's rights advocates, and students. 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."

Google's recent controversies

In addition to Project Dragonfly, Google employees have in recent months protested the company's handling of sexual assault and harassment allegations, and also Project Maven, in which Google was helping the Department of Defense develop technology and practices to better analyze drone footage. Google said the project was intended to reduce civilian casualties.

"The technology is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work," Google told The New York Times in April.

Both protests led to changes within the company: Google plans to end Project Maven in 2019, and the company updated its sexual misconduct policies after employees staged walkouts in several countries. According to an Engadget report, employees are planning more walkouts over Project Dragonfly.

"Don't be evil"

Google's motto was once "don't be evil," but the company removed nearly all mention of the phrase when it updated its code of conduct earlier this year. It did, however, leave one reference to the old motto in the last line of the document:

"And remember… don't be evil, and if you see something that you think isn't right – speak up!"

Is the universe a graveyard? This theory suggests humanity may be alone.

Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?

According to the Great Filter theory, Earth might be one of the only planets with intelligent life. And that's a good thing (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team [STScI/AURA]).
Surprising Science

Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.

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The key to better quality education? Make students feel valued.

Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.

Future of Learning
  • Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
  • One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
  • "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
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Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

A truck pulls out of a large Walmart regional distribution center on June 6, 2019 in Washington, Utah.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
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Personal Growth

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

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