Congress doesn't know a lot about how the internet works

There’s so much going on in the world and it can be difficult to understand it all at times — by reading this newsletter, you’re getting a digest of the biggest news this week, what it means and why it matters. If you like what you see, send it to a friend or ask them to sign up here. Better yet, share it on Facebook, Twitter or another social network and we’ll be forever grateful.

Congress doesn’t know how the internet works — as evident from its hearing with Google

In Washington on December 5, Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared in front of Congress to answer questions about data privacy, misinformation, Project Dragonfly and allegations that the search engine is biased towards liberal views.

The hearing was Pichai’s first time before Congress — with him appearing months after a seperate attempt to get him in front of lawmakers failed, resulting in Congress featuring an empty chair in his place.

With his opening remarks, the CEO stressed that Google remains nonpartisan, repeating the fact numerous times throughout the hearing. “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way”.

He was also questioned about a invalidated study and the findings that Google provides biased results for searches about Trump, offering to explain how Google works to R. Lamar Smith who asked the question. There were more questions like this — whether Google is launching a search product in China (it has “no plans” to despite a “limited effort” internally), what data the company collects on users (a lot, but it’s not available for most employees to view and can be viewed and deleted by users) and what Google does about misinformation on YouTube (it takes it down).

But there were also numerous questions that show Congress fails to grasp the concept of basic technology, especially with the average age being between 57-61.

R. Steve King: “I have a 7-year-old granddaughter who picked up her phone during the election, and she’s playing a little game, the kind of game a kid would play. And up on there pops a picture of her grandfather. And I’m not going to say into the record what kind of language was used around that picture of her grandfather, but I’d ask you: how does that show up on a 7-year-old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kid’s game?”

Pichai: “Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company and so …”

King: “You know, I mean — it might have been an Android. It was a hand-me-down of some kind”.

This conversation isn’t the first time a question like this has been asked and with an aging Congress and Senate, won’t be the last time. At Facebook’s hearing in April the company was asked to explain whether sending an email in WhatsApp informs ads — not understanding that you cannot send email in the app and the meaning of encryption.

The US Congress is one of the world’s most powerful bodies of people but doesn’t have a basic understanding of digital infrastructure in the 21st century. With this technology being used by general public and Members of Congress on a daily basis, it’s about time they actually informed themselves on basic concepts like what these companies do, how they make money and what their products are used for.

Obsession Hiatus

Our newest obsession is the #InfluenceofChina — as the world’s second-biggest economy, it holds a lot of power. Throughout the world the effects and power that China holds can be seen, from domestic citizen surveillance, debt traps and playing dirty to get what it wants, the country has a far reach.

In Case You Missed It

🇨🇳 China’s State Administration of Taxation is lowering the threshold for taxes that lead to individuals and companies being blacklisted from a ¥1 million to ¥100,000, according to new documentation.

💰 The UK government spent nearly £100,000 in public money over the past week buying Facebook ads to convince the public to support Theresa May’s reckless Brexit deal — just for the vote to be delayed.

🚕 Uber is launching a bus service in congestion-ridden Cairo, allowing passengers to request buses through the app, which will match them with riders on the route that matches where they aim to go.

🚂 Metrolinx did inappropriately recommend the province build two GO Transit stations under political pressure, according to a report from the provincial auditor, but we already knew that.

Our best wishes for a productive and peaceful evening. Feel free to direct any cringeworthy Congress moments or political scandals to our email.

Love this newsletter? Hate it? Let us know by filling out this brief, two question feedback form.

You can find us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates throughout the week and to discover some of our current obsessions.