Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the House Judiciary Committee that the company has “no plans” to launch a controversial censored search product in China, but he refused to rule out the possibility, which wasn’t reassuring to critics who say that “Project Dragonfly” will enable the Chinese government to block its citizens from accessing information it doesn’t like and surveil its political opponents. Some new information about the scope of the project emerged during the three-hour-plus hearing, but lawmakers spent much of their time asking about alleged anti-conservative bias, data privacy and other issues; here’s a time-stamped recap of the proceedings. Some say Congress should replace these time-consuming hearings with talks that work toward solutions. [Shirin Ghaffary and Kurt Wagner / Recode]
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Verizon is writing off $4.5 billion of the $10 billion or so it spent buying AOL in 2015 and Yahoo in 2017. Verizon hoped the combination of the two web pioneers — which it called Oath — would make it a more powerful force in digital advertising, but its share of that market has shrunk instead. One lesson you can take from this, even if you’re not an internet giant: Giant megadeals don’t belong to the companies that make them. They belong to the executives that make them; if those execs leave, the deals can go, too. And there are new people running Verizon now. [Peter Kafka / Recode]
Disney is exploring splitting up and selling the 22 regional sports networks it acquired from Fox to multiple buyers, likely complicating the regulatory approval process. The company had hoped to sell RSNs to a single buyer in a deal to address antitrust concerns over its pending $71.3 billion merger with Fox; Disney faces a 90-day deadline to get rid of the networks after it closes its deal. Sinclair Broadcasting, in conjunction with CVC Capital Partners, has reportedly made the only serious — but lowball — bid for all 22 networks. [Josh Kosman and Richard Morgan / New York Post]
More than eight million people are working illegally in the U.S. — including at a Trump golf club in New Jersey — and they make up about 5 percent of the workforce. The situation is not likely to change: Though policymakers have talked for years about shutting off the influx of undocumented workers, the economy has grown to heavily rely on them, particularly in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, which employers often have trouble filling with American workers. [Miriam Jordan / The New York Times]
Time magazine has chosen “The Guardians” — a group of journalists who have been targeted for their work — as its collective Person of the Year 2018. A series of four black-and-white covers highlights what the magazine calls “the War on Truth”; the group includes Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributor who was killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October; Maria Ressa, the founder of Rappler, a news startup under attack by the authoritarian president of the Philippines; Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists who were arrested one year ago in Myanmar while they were working on stories about the killings of Rohingya Muslims; and journalists at the Capital Gazette, the Annapolis, Md., newspaper where five employees were murdered by a gunman last June.[Jill Disis and Brian Stelter / CNN Business]
Top stories from Recode
U.S. internet speeds rose nearly 40 percent this year. New Jersey had the fastest broadband, while Maine had the slowest. [Rani Molla]
Twitter has made journalists dumber, meaner and more reactive, says Vox.com founder Ezra Klein. At a live recording of Recode Decode, Klein spoke with Kara Swisher about the future of journalism, the decline of scoops and the role of political journalists post-2016. [Kara Swisher]
This is cool
The Ringer picked its 45 favorite sports moments of 2018 (don’t miss the other best-of lists at the end).
And here’s a different kind of end-of-the-year review.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.