Google employees organize against censored search service for China

17 Août, 2018, 19:53 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Sergey Brin

Following similar action against secretive AI drone imaging program for the USA 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.

The employees are demanding more transparency so they can understand the moral implications of their work, said the Times, which obtained a copy of the letter.

Back at the beginning of the month we heard of a project called Dragonfly, aiming to bring back Google Search to China but with revised mechanisms and abiding by the censorship laws in China.

Here, we address an underlying structural problems: now we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.

"We are not close to launching a search product in China", Mr Pichai said.

The internal activism presents another obstacle for Google's potential return to China eight years after the company publicly withdrew from the country in protest of censorship and government hacking. It has said in the past that it will not comment on Dragonfly or "speculation about future plans".

Earlier this year, Google employees staged a similar protest when it was announced the company was working with the US Department of Defense to develop artificial intelligence capabilities for drones.

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With the secret project, Google employees are reportedly anxious that they might unknowingly be working on technology that could help China hide information from its people.

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.

Human rights organisations and activists expressed their worry over Google's plans when they were shared earlier this month in U.S. media reports.

China restricts internet users massively by blocking websites, censoring words and clamping down on free speech. "The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options".

"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 told employees: "We'll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here" on Dragonfly, according to the transcript.

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