Friday roundup:  A week in tech

Google

This week’s tech world is full of horrors, so we’d better get on with it…

Good old Google – you know, friendly, nice, happy, “don’t be evil” Google – is developing a nice new special search engine for the friendly, nice Chinese government. Isn’t that nice?

According to a report on The Intercept website, the kindly tech giant’s project ‘Dragonfly’ will block frivolous, troublesome searches such as ‘human rights’.

To absolutely fair, if you desperately wanted access to one of the biggest audiences and markets in the world, you’d probably hammer to pieces the smidgen of morals you had left to make a deal with a spectacularly oppressive regime. Well, most of us probably wouldn’t, but you see my point, perhaps.

But is any of this even true? A state-owned Chinese newspaper (is there any other kind?) has scoffed at the report (which could mean literally anything), while nice, friendly Google has said that ‘we don’t comment on speculation about future plans,’ which sounds like a clumsy and slightly tautological way of saying ‘we very well could be’.

The Intercept reports that the project began last year after Google boss Sundar Picahi met with a top Chinese official – while an Android app which automatically blocks sites such as the BBC and Wikipedia has already been demonstrated to Beijing overlords, and could be rolled out within the next six months.

The Chinese government loves a bit of internet censorship, blocking access to things like ‘free speech’, ‘anticommunism’, references to the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the work of Les Dennis (I made the last one up).

Pretty appalling stuff. Thank goodness things like a free press are held in such high regard here in the west…

***

…oh dear. MPs have warned that the UK is facing a ‘democratic crisis’ in the form of so-called ‘fake news’.

Following the Cambridge Analytica debacle, the good folk of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has been having a good look into the murky world of online voter manipulation.

Apparently, the committee will recommend that social media firms should be more tightly regulated in an attempt to stem the flow of digital prattle.

How do we know all this? Oddly, a copy of the DCMS’s forthcoming report was leaked to, of all people, Brexit fanboy Dominic Cummings (who refused to take part in the committee’s inquiry himself) and he published it on his blog, calling it, fancy that, ‘fake news’.

Anyway, the DCMS highlights the ‘relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans’ – a clear disgrace: can you imagine if any of Britain’s leading newspapers such as the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Express, etc. were to carry on in such a way, using prejudiced, hysterical lies to engineer election results? It’s unthinkable!

And it gets better. Across the ocean in the Land of the (currently) Free, the interesting choice for president Donald Trump has been whipping his believers into a righteous ecstasy over the media, calling news outlets the ‘enemy of the people’. There’s nothing worrying at all about the most powerful man on Earth leading his supporters into a crusade against one of the freest presses in the world.

Perhaps once they’ve burned down the news rooms and lynched the journalists they can blow up all the dams and finally destroy the hated and evil water supply.

***

Let’s end today’s ghoulish roundup with some really great news – really great news for Apple, that is.

The firm has become the world’s first public company to be worth one trillion American dollars. Hurrah!

Famous for its expensive electric telephones and laptops, suicides in Chinese factories and astronomical global tax avoidance, the company has managed to become so rich by selling very expensive phones and laptops built cheaply in poor conditions by Chinese labourers while paying very little tax on its huge profits.

Since Apple released its first iPhone in 2007, its shares have risen by 1,100%, which if you worship money and success will surely make you swoon.

The firm has been in a three-horse race with Microsoft and Amazon to the vaunted $1trillion valuation, and jolly exciting it’s been. Stephen Fry will be having a few jigs around his champagne-soaked kitchen this weekend, that’s for sure.

Am I being too cynical? Shouldn’t we be celebrating this unprecedented milestone for one of the world’s biggest tech firms? No, I’m not, and no, we shouldn’t.

Friday roundup:  A week in tech

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