Google workers protest censored China search

Mae Love
August 17, 2018

The letter said Google's willingness to work within China's censorship laws raises "urgent moral and ethical issues", and that employees now don't have the information needed "to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects and our employment". Google decided in June not to renew the contract.

"We are not close to launching a search product in China", Pichai said, according to a transcript of the meeting provided to Bloomberg.

In the letter, the employees say Google would be validating China's restrictions on freedom of expression and violating its own clause in the company's code of conduct "don't be evil".

"I think the team are exploring many options", Sundar Pichai said of the project. It used to have a censored version of the service in the country, but pulled out in the face of heavy criticism in 2010.

They urged their company to be more transparent about its work.

After employees petitioned this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the US military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.

The China petition says employees are concerned Google's ethics principles "are not enough".

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The New York Times first reported the petition on Thursday.

Google has not officially commented on the project, but following the letter, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees the project is still in early stages of development and it is still unknown if the search engine would launch at all.

The new project is said to be codenamed "Dragonfly".

Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions. "He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can 'cause issues".

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

Google services, including its search engine, Gmail and Google Drive, are all blocked in China. It left in 2010 over an escalating dispute with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyber attacks against Google and other large USA firms. Investors are not pleased that the company right now have no leverage in an eventual attempt to return to the Chinese market and are pressuring officials to find a way, while employees stated concerns about the “Dont Be Evil” internal motto of the company.

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