Google employees question company plans for Chinese search engine

Sergey Brin

Retired Staff Sergeant Johnny Jones discusses the reports that Google plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will block particular websites and search terms.

The New York Times reported Thursday that around 1,400 employees have signed a letter questioning the plan and calling for more transparency.

It has not gone unnoticed by employees that Google's leaders have yet to address the censored search-engine reports internally, two weeks after the news first came out.

Before knowledge of the Dragonfly project was public, only a few hundred out of 88,000 Google employees were privy to the China project.

Google pulled its servers out of China in 2010 amid concerns about censorship. "And whether we would do so or could so is all very unclear".

The letter is similar to one thousands of employees had signed to protest against Project Maven, a United States military contract that Google decided in June not to renew. Earlier this summer, employees at Amazon.com urged chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos to discontinue partnerships with companies that work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to end the sale of facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies.

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A Google spokesman did not immediately respond to questions.

China is the world's biggest single internet market, but U.S. companies are having a hard time there, with Google, Twitter and Facebook all being banned.

Company executives have not commented publicly on the China project, code named Dragonfly.

The internal dissent over Dragonfly comes on the heels of the employee protests over Google's involvement in the Pentagon project to use artificial intelligence. This time, however, although Google continues to stay silent on reports of a censored search, the fact that Googlers have reached this stage suggests there's some credence. "Our industry has entered a new era of ethical responsibility: the choices we make matter on a global scale", the letter states, specifically referencing the Chinese search engine project, codenamed Dragonfly.

Google employees are also sounding the alarm. It complied with China's censorship rules, but alerted users to the fact that some search results were missing. Google can ply its staff with all the free food and ping-pong tables it wants, but it looks like its employees' vigilance and righteousness aren't going anywhere any time soon. 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.

The brand logo of Alphabet Inc's Google is seen outside its office in Beijing, China, August 8, 2018.

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