Google workers protest company decision to build censored search engine for China

Daniel Fowler
August 19, 2018

"If we were to do our mission well, we are to think seriously about how to do more in China", Pichai told employees, according to The Times.

The letter also called on Google to allow employees to participate in ethical reviews of the company's products, to appoint external representatives to ensure transparency and to publish an ethical assessment of controversial projects.

A Google representative was not immediately available for comment.

Google is facing an employee rebellion over fears it is planning to help China build its super-censored internet.

China is home to about 1.4 billion people and one of the potentially biggest markets for Google (or any other company).

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.

They added: "Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment".

After workers expressed outrage at their unbeknownst participation in supporting the American war machine, Google leadership pulled the plug on that program earlier this year and implemented a new set of company-wide guidelines covering its development of A.I. technology.

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The Intercept's report stated that Google had diverted resources to create custom apps for China, which had been demonstrated to the members of the Chinese government.

"We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we're building", the document seen by Reuters states.

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).

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

But the project is shrouded in secrecy, and employees are demanding transparency. While it still maintains offices in the country, it has been seeking to increase its presence.

Since Google quit China in 2010, there have been a number of rumours about a return, subject to local laws, but they have come to nothing. And it has introduced translation and file management apps for the Chinese market.

The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google.

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