Google Employees Protest Secretive Plans for a Censored Chinese Search Engine

Google employees organize against censored search service for China | TheHill

If the censored search engine were to come to fruition, it would mark a u-turn for Google, which severed ties with China eight years ago in opposition to the country's stringent censorship laws.

At least 1,400 Google employees signed a letter to company leaders demanding more transparency over a project the tech giant is working on that could be accepted by the Chinese government.

Google has always been a hub for curious minds, keen to know more about how the world works, and what it has to offer. Google spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Google's last foray into the Chinese market, from 2005 to 2010, ended in a public falling out over censorship and an alleged hacking scandal.

Some employees are said to be in favor of re-entering China, saying the decision to exit didn't really cause much trouble to local authorities and Google is missing out on the worlds largest base of internet users.

The letter called on executives to review ethics and transparency at the company. It says employees lack the information required "to make ethically informed decisions about our work" and complains that most employees only found out about the project after reading about in the press. In 2016, the company began developing a new search engine - code-named Dragonfly - to be more compliant with Chinese government restrictions.

"Dragonfly and Google's return to China raise urgent moral and ethical issues".

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Pichai said Google's stated mission is "to organize the world's information", Bloomberg News reported, quoting a transcript of the employee meeting. China has the world's largest internet audience but has frustrated US tech giants with content restrictions or outright blockages of services including Facebook and Instagram.

Google's search engine is now blocked in China due to tight controls over speech.

The new platform, which the BBC understands is known as "Dragonfly" internally, would need to show it was blocking any non-approved words - "religion", "Tiananmen" or "Winnie" (probably). Hundreds of the company's employees have written to headquarters to protest the project, which they say raises "urgent moral and ethical questions".

"We, the undersigned, are calling for Code Yellow addressing Ethics and Transparency, asking leadership to work with employees to implement concrete transparency and oversight process", the petition said.

"This plan will irreparably damage Google's brand and its ability to compete for talent".

We reached out to Google but had not heard back at time of writing.

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