Authorization

Google has little choice to be evil or not in todays fractured internet

Well, we got to January 2nd before the latest angry resignation published by a tech executive on Medium.
Todays installment comes from Ross LaJeunesse, who was head of international relations at Google and served for more than a decade in various roles at the company. He denounces what he sees as Googles increasingly failed ambitions to be a company principled on human rights, and poses a series of questions about the future of tech and capitalism:
I think the important question is what does it mean when one of Americas marque companies changes so dramatically. Is it the inevitable outcome of a corporate culture that rewards growth and profits over social impact and responsibility? Is it in some way related to the corruption that has gripped our federal government? Is this part of the global trend toward strong man leaders who are coming to power around the globe, where questions of right and wrong are ignored in favor of self-interest and self-dealing? Finally, what are the implications for all of us when that once-great American company controls so much data about billions of users across the globe?
The whole read is interesting, and covers Googles China operations, its Project Dragonfly censored search crisis, Saudi Arabias apps in Google Cloud and his own personal experience with Google HR.
Its a manifesto of sorts, and perhaps that isnt surprising, given that LaJeunesse is also running for the Democratic primary in Maines senatorial election to compete against Republican incumbent Susan Collins. His critiques of Big Tech seem to be channeling Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), and that makes it a fascinating political strategy.
But lets focus in on the key question at the heart of this debate: does Google have the ability to be good or evil when it comes to techs influence on society? Does it have agency to make a difference on human rights in countries around the world?
My answer is: Google used to have a lot of agency, which is unfortunately declining very, very rapidly.
Ive talked about the fracturing of the internet into different spheres of influence for quite literally years. Countries like China in particular, but also Russia, Iran and others, are seizing more and more exacting control of the internets plumbing and applications, subsuming the original internets spirit of openness and freedom and placing this communications medium under their iron fists.
As this fracturing has occurred, companies like Google, or Shutterstock, or even the NBA, have increasingly faced what Ive called an authoritarian straddle they can either work with these countries and follow the local rules, or they can just get out, with serious ramifications for their home markets.

The NBA should learn from Google China
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