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Why Microsoft Is Complicit in China’s Tyrannical Behavior

Microsoft’s CEO says the company has turned down many artificial intelligence projects in China due to “ethical concerns.”
That isn’t the whole story.


- October 16th, 2019
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Peter Thiel earlier this year aptly described Google’s capitulation and cooperation with China as “seemingly treasonous.” But Google is not the sole, or even the worst, Big Tech collaborator with the Communists in Beijing.

Several U.S. senators, including Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) last week sent a letter to Microsoft detailing the serious threat its business partner, Chinese tech giant Huawei, poses to national security. The letter was a response to Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, who called restrictions on Huawei “un-American.” 

“Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us,’” Smith said of demands to cut ties with the company. “And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.’”

The senators responded by detailing how Huawei helps China spy on foreign countries, employing thousands of Chinese intelligence agents, massive intellectual property theft, violation of U.S. sanctions, and assistance in cyber attacks. 

Microsoft and its partners gladly provide tech to oppress the Chinese people.

“Huawei is the means by which China would get into our networks and our systems, and either attempt to extract information or to corrupt it, or to undermine what we’re trying to do,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement the senators cited.

Although the senators’ rebuke is important, it is far too soft. The letter strikes a conciliatory tone with Smith and Microsoft. It even thanks the company for “the many ways in which Microsoft works with our military, intelligence community, and law enforcement agencies.” The tech giant is probably well aware of Huawei’s misdeeds. It just doesn’t care. 

In fact, the Republican senators are far too generous in complementing Microsoft’s assistance with American security. As Tucker Carlson noted in August, the tech giant refuses to help local law enforcement and says it won’t assist ICE in immigration enforcement due to supposed human rights concerns.

Microsoft and its partners gladly provide tech to oppress the Chinese people, however.

One such company is DeepGlint, a company that received investment from Microsoft Accelerator. DeepGlint provides the Chinese Communists with advanced facial recognition tech to identify and persecute the nation’s Uighur minority.

Microsoft also partners with YITU Technology, another company that provides facial recognition technology used to oppress Uighurs. 

For some reason, Microsoft is only horrified if American cops use this technology to identify criminals—not so much if China uses it to persecute an ethnic minority.

Despite this record of working on draconian AI projects with China, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella told the BBC earlier this month that the company turned down many AI projects in China due to “ethical concerns.” Smith told CNN how the company wanted to ensure that its facial recognition technology was not used to create “the mass surveillance future that George Orwell imagined.”

Yet Microsoft may also allow Chinese intelligence to listen in on conversations conducted through Skype and Cortana. The company has confirmed it allows human contractors to listen to these conversations but has not said whether those contractors were Chinese.

Microsoft isn’t alone in this helping cover for Huawei’s espionage against the United States. Google also boasts a close working relationship with Huawei. “Google is a very responsible company. We have maintained very good cooperation with each other,” Huawei Chairman Ling Hua told NPR in June.

Google aggressively lobbied the Trump Administration to not blacklist Huawei. The tech giant said a ban would pose a national security threat to the United States if put into effect. 

For all Google’s arrogance, the search and advertising giant at least give a pretense to being concerned about Huawei’s threat to national security and won’t openly collaborate with Chinese military researchers. This is not because of Google’s patriotism, but because the company has finally faced seriously bipartisan scrutiny over its ties to China, which Microsoft has largely escaped. 

Fortunately, President Trump has ignored Google and Microsoft on Huawei. “It’s a national security concern,” Trump told reporters last month. “Huawei is a big concern of our military, of our intelligence agencies, and we are not doing business with Huawei.”

Yet Silicon Valley still chose profits over patriotism and still have the audacity to lecture Americans about human rights. It’s time we stop fawning over Big Tech and demand they put America first. 

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