Here Are The Tech Giants That Took A Stand For BLM But Are Bending The Knee To Beijing

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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  • Google and Apple are among several tech companies to express support for activists demonstrating against the death of George Floyd. 
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai promised to hire more black employees over the course of the next five years after ending a covert effort to create a censorship-compliant search engine in China in 2018. 
  • Twitter changed its Twitter bio to a Black Lives Matter tribute shortly, but won’t respond to calls from cyber security experts to nix official Chinese accounts that promote coronavirus propaganda. 

Several tech companies publicly expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement amid mass protests against police brutality, yet many of these same mega companies have done little to oppose China’s censorship regime.

Zoom, Apple, and Google have participated in social media campaigns supporting demonstrations against the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in May after a former police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes, according to video of the incident. All three companies have been criticized in the past for bowing to Beijing’s censors.

Twitter and TikTok have also expressed glowing support for the movement and they too are being hit for not pushing back against China. (RELATED: Twitter Deletes A Giant Trove Of Chinese Accounts, Many Of Which Propped Up China’s COVID Response)

Apple, Google Make A Pledge

Apple rolled out its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative June 11, which seeks to distribute $100 million to “challenge systemic barriers that limit opportunity for communities of color in the critical areas of education, economic equality and criminal justice.”

CEO Tim Cook, for his part, said Monday that the U.S. must “aim higher to build a future that lives up to our ideals.”

“Our mission has always been to make the world a better place,” Cook said in comments before kicking off the 2020 Worldwide Developer Conference. “And we’re committed to being a force for change.”

By contrast, Apple admitted in 2017 to removing from its app store hundreds of virtual private network apps in China allowing users to avoid the country’s censors. The company built a data center in 2018 in China to comply with Beijing’s cyber security laws, which give the country the ability to seize data on political dissidents.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet (REUTERS/Yves Herman)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced in a June 17 blog post commitments to racial equity that include increasing black employees at senior levels and a goal to increase leadership of minority groups by 30% over the course of the next five years. The company made some changes to some of its functions as well.

Google sought to launch a plan in 2018 to create a censorship-compliant search engine in China. The search engine — codenamed Project Dragonfly — would blacklist sensitive queries preventing people from searching certain terms in China. The project ended in December 2018 after employees complained.

The report said that Dragonfly would “blacklist sensitive queries,” meaning no results would show when people searched certain banned terms. In December 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress that the company had no plans to launch a search engine in China. The project has reportedly been halted.

Neither Google nor Apple have responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Zoom Offers Support To BLM, Bends To China

Zoom participated in a social media campaign in which accounts on Twitter and other platforms blacked out their profiles in support of black lives matter. “We know this post won’t fix the issues, but we want to make our stance clear. We are with you,” the video conferencing company wrote in a June 2 tweet. 

The upstart tech company acknowledged on June 11 removing a U.S.-based account after it commemorated the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Zoom removed the account to comply with local law inside China, which prohibits discussion about the three-decade-old massacre, the company said.

Zoom announced on June 12 that it is developing technology that can block individual users in China from video calls at the request of Beijing.

“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate,” a Zoom spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday, according to Axios, which initially reported on the removal. (RELATED: Zoom Blocked A US User’s Account To Abide By A Chinese Law. Here’s Why That’s A Problem)

Zoom spokeswoman Vera Ranneft declined a comment to the DCNF addressing the technology blocking users in China from video calls, but she did highlight a June 11 blog post showing that the company “will not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China.”

TikTok Puts Up Big Money, Stays Connected To Beijing

TikTok, a China-based company that is trying to distance itself from Beijing, pledged to donate $3 million to helping the black community, and another $1 million toward battling racial injustice.

“As I begin my work at TikTok, it has never been a more important time to support Black employees, users, creators, artists, and our broader community,” incoming TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said in a post on TikTok, according to a June 2 CNBC report.

The U.S. Army banned the TikTok app on all devices over national security concerns, and a lawsuit filed in December accused the company of sending data to China. Sen. Josh Hawley is targeting TikTok, with the Republican noting in March that TikTok’s parent company “includes Chinese Communist Party members.”

Twitter Changes It’s Bio, Won’t Nix Chinese Propaganda

Twitter made similar moves as Apple and Google, among others. The company changed its official Twitter bio to a Black Lives Matter tribute, while the social media platform’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, promised to give $3 million to an anti-racism organization started by former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.

Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey looks on during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing concerning foreign influence operations' use of social media platforms, on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Twitter chief executive officer Jack Dorsey looks on during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Cyber experts believe that Twitter should remove Chinese public officials who have accounts on the platform, along with other government accounts run by countries that black their own citizens.

China blocks Twitter and Facebook from taking a foothold in the country, while China’s information tzars use the platforms as weapons of misinformation. Lijian Zhao, deputy director of China’s Foreign Ministry Information Department, for instance, told his Twitter followers in March that the U.S. Army injected the virus into China.

Twitter applied a fact check to Zhao’s account but has not yet removed him.

Twitter has not responded for comment.

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