Published: Fri, August 17, 2018
Economy | By

Google staff protest over China search engine plans

Google staff protest over China search engine plans

Hundreds of Google employees have signed a protest letter over the company's reported work on a censor-friendly search engine to get back into China, The New York Times said Thursday.

However, Pichai did hint at doing more in the country which is infamous for its restrictive internet policies.

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".

At one point, Pichai said the company is not close to launching a search product in China, according to another person who attended the meeting. "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".

According to reports, the company is seeking Chinese government approval for a mobile search service called Dragonfly, that would censor some websites and search terms. "The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options".

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.

It is not the first time Google employees have spoken out against the company's decisions.

After a separate petition this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the USA military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.

The China petition says employees are concerned the project, code named Dragonfly, "makes clear" that ethics principles Google issued during the drone debate "are not enough". Google didn't respond to requests for comment.

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.

Google services, including its search engine, Gmail and Google Drive, are all blocked in China. 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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