Google workers protest secretive, censored China project

Cornelia Mascio
Agosto 17, 2018

Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees at a recent meeting that the company was not close to launching a search product in China, CNBC reported.

"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", states the document seen by Reuters.

Google executives on Thursday addressed the company's plans to reintroduce a search service in China, following an employee backlash over concerns about complying with Beijing's censorship laws, according to reports of an all-hands company meeting.

The letter argues that the search engine project and Google's apparent willingness to accept China's censorship requirements "raise urgent moral and ethical issues".

"Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment", the letter read.

The letter, first reported on by The New York Times earlier today, makes several demands for transparency, most bluntly stated as, "Google employees need to know what we're building".

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". It used to have a censored version of the service in the country, but pulled out in the face of heavy criticism in 2010.

China has the world's largest Internet audience but has frustrated United States tech giants with content restrictions or outright blockages of services including Facebook and Instagram. Google has so far refused to comment on the matter. It has said in the past that it will not comment on Dragonfly or "speculation about future plans".

"The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options".

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

"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.

"China is one-fifth of the world's population".

"I genuinely do believe we have a positive impact when we engage around the world and I don't see any reason why that would be different in China", Pichai said.

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