Economy

Google employees protest secret work on censored search engine for China

Google employees protest secret work on censored search engine for China

But plans to engineer a censored version of its services for China have got Google staff up in arms, with employees questioning the morality of the endeavour.

In the letter sent to management this week, Google employees put forth a list of four demands, pushing the company to create a ethics review board with input from rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to oversee potential company malfeasance, a clear plan for transparency, and an "ethical assessment" of already implemented projects like Dragonfly.

"Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work", they added.

While expressing interest in continuing to expand the company's services in China, Pichai told the employees that the company was "not close" to launching a search product there and that whether it would - or could - "is all very unclear", the CNBC report said. China has since pulled further ahead as the world's largest internet market; its burgeoning middle class means a tailored search engine would be worth billions of dollars.

HuffPost UK has reached out to Google for comment.

Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more "transparency, oversight and accountability", according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday. According to the Times report, roughly 1,400 Google employees have signed a letter voicing their concerns over the issue.

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Google would validate China's prohibitions on free expression and violate the "don't be evil" clause in the company's code of conduct.

According to the New York Times, Google employees are anxious that they have been unwittingly working to facilitate a strictly-controlled internet for Chinese users that could block search access to topics such as human rights and environmental protection. Dragonfly and Google's return to China raise urgent moral and ethical issues, the substance of which we are discussing elsewhere. It has been actively seeking a way back into the country ever since. Google now has more than 700 employees in China.

Google has always been a hub for curious minds, keen to know more about how the world works, and what it has to offer.

Google now has no presence in China after it removed itself in 2010 over censorship concerns.

"You can never satisfy a censor, particularly the ones in China", said Charles Mok, a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council who advocates for information technology and who is affiliated with the territory's democratic camp.

"Then the Chinese government can say, 'Google is OK with it too, '" he said.


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