Google Employees Protest Secretive Plans for a Censored Chinese Search Engine

  • Google Employees Protest Secretive Plans for a Censored Chinese Search Engine

Google Employees Protest Secretive Plans for a Censored Chinese Search Engine

Following similar action against secretive AI drone imaging program for the U.S. military, Project Maven, Googlers are once again organising internally to push back against their leadership - this time around a project dubbed Dragonfly, the proposed search product the company intends to build for the Chinese market in accordance with government-mandated censorship.

However, Pichai did hint at doing more in the country which is infamous for its restrictive internet policies. They are concerned that by agreeing to censorship demands, Google would validate China's prohibitions on free expression and violate the "don't be evil" clause in the company's code of conduct.

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.

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.

According to a New York Times report, Google engineers are working on software that would block certain search terms and leave out content blacklisted by the Chinese government, so the company can re-enter the Chinese market.

Human rights and press freedom groups have criticized Google's possible renewed collaboration with Beijing, which has restricted or banned many American tech companies, including Facebook and Instagram.

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

In the letter, which is an internal petition, the employees asked for more transparency and oversight of Project Dragonfly, the project's internal title.

"That the decision to build Dragonfly was made in secret, and progressed even with the AI Principles in place makes clear that the Principles alone are not enough", it continues.

"And whether we would do so or could so is all very unclear, " Pichai also said. Google declined to comment. The employees added, "This amounts to unsustainable ethics whack-a-mole, and assumes employees know about a project to begin with". "He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can 'cause issues". 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.

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