Google's Staff Are Protesting Its 'Secret' Censored Search Engine For China

Google employees organize against censored search service for China | TheHill

Google employees push back on censored China search engine

The company's willingness to co-operate with strict Communist Party restrictions on the internet raises "urgent moral and ethical issues", according to a letter signed by 1,400 employees.

Disclosure of the secretive effort, which is codenamed Dragonfly, has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations.

Google's plan to launch a censored search engine in China requires more "transparency, oversight and accountability", hundreds of employees at the Alphabet Inc unit said in an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday. According to the Times report, roughly 1,400 Google employees have signed a letter voicing their concerns over the issue.

Chief executive Sundar Pichai told staff that Google is in the "early stages" of considering a return to China, Bloomberg reported, but that the company is not close to finalizing a search product.

Although Google may be working on a Chinese search engine, it's not yet clear if officials in Beijing would accept it. Complaining that Google management has kept workers in the dark about program's goals, employees are now challenging the company's apparent decision to cave to Chinese government censorship.

Earlier this year, Google employees staged a similar protest when it was announced the company was working with the US Department of Defense to develop artificial intelligence capabilities for drones.

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"Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment", the letter read.

Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly and the remarks at the company meeting are the first time the project has been mentioned since details about it were leaked. The document referred to the situation as a "code yellow", a process used in engineering to address critical problems that impact several teams.

The exit from China was a seminal moment for the company - a symbol of its uncompromising idealism captured by Google's unofficial motto of "Don't Be Evil".

Web users in China can't access Google's service because the government there blocks it as part of its sweeping censorship infrastructure, known as the "Great Firewall". While it still maintains offices in the country, it has been seeking to increase its presence.

"Then the Chinese government can say, 'Google is OK with it too, '" he said.

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