Economy

Google employees protest secret work on censored search engine for China

Google employees protest secret work on censored search engine for China

More than one thousand Google employees have signed a letter protesting against a secretive alleged plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship by blocking some websites and search terms.

The latest scandal at Silicon Valley's golden child comes just months after Google employees spoke out about the company's involvement in an initiative developing artificial intelligence technology for the U.S. Defense Department.

The letter reportedly calls on executives to review the ethics and transparency at the company. And so far, there's no indication that they have - the company declined the Times' request to comment on the letter.

The employees are reportedly anxious about kowtowing to China by implementing the government's requests for censorship.

Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly.

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

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

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Reports about Dragonfly, a censored search app, compelled over 1000 Google employees to petition against its launch in China.

Pichai said Google's stated mission is "to organize the world's information", Bloomberg News reported, quoting a transcript of the employee meeting.

China has the world's largest internet audience but United States tech firms have struggled to take off in China due to content restrictions and blockages.

"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 letter demanded.

"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.

Google is planning a return to China. And it has introduced translation and file management apps for the Chinese market.

We reached out to Google but had not heard back at time of writing.

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