Google employees sign protest letter over China search engine


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.

As a direct result of government censorship, American internet giants including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all now banned in China.

Google employees are also sounding the alarm.

Google is probably facing intense pressure to introduce more of its products in China, Mok said, but added that the company would lend legitimacy to government censorship if it debuted a censored search product in China. Some employees have raised concerns that helping China suppress the free flow of information would violate these new principles.

This triggered an outrage among some Google staff who complained of lack of transparency within the company.

According to the report, the secretive project, codenamed Dragonfly, led to a protest by 1,000 Google employees who objected to the company's efforts at supporting the restrictive, state-sponsored censorship.

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In April, thousands of staff criticised its work on a USA military programme developing artificial intelligence for drones. In that instance, the protest proved fruitful, with Google deciding to terminate its AI contract with the Pentagon.

Employee anger flared with a report this month in The Intercept that Google is secretly building a search engine that will filter content banned in China and thus meet Beijing's tough censorship rules. Dragonfly and Google's return to China raise urgent moral and ethical issues, the substance of which we are discussing elsewhere. A possible re-entry to China, according to current and former employees, is a sign of a more mature and pragmatic company.

In 2006, the search engine was introduced to Chinese internet users, but after many quarrels with the Chinese governments it moved its servers to Hong Kong, which has less restrictions on the internet.

This isn't the first time Google's been in hot water with its employees; back in April, thousands of staff rallied against a programme which developed AI for USA military drones.

Google's work on Dragonfly is not a guarantee that its search engine will be welcomed back to China.

Sundar Pichai told a company-wide meeting that providing more services in the world's most populous country fits with Google's global mission.