Monday, 17 December, 2018

Google employees are protesting Project Dragonfly Chinese search

Google Staff Urge Firm to Drop China Search Plans Google workers revolt against China censors in open letter
Rhonda Young | 03 December, 2018, 00:12

Google LLC has reluctantly become more open regarding its censored Chinese search engine, "Project Dragonfly", but it turns out the company wanted to keep the project low-key for as long as it could.

Their concerns were sparked by revelations in August the company meant to build a censored search engine in the country.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the letter and said the China search project has only been "exploratory". "Their biggest fear was that internal opposition would slow our operations".

In the wake of the Intercept's report, Google engineer Liz Fong-Jones called for a mass walkout should the project be greenlit without oversight by Google's privacy and security teams.

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Global human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project. But as details of it have leaked since August, current and former employees, human rights activists and United States lawmakers have criticized Google for not taking a harder line against the Chinese government's policy that politically sensitive results be blocked. "We deserve to know what we're building and we deserve a say in these significant decisions", the petition said. Those groups are urging Google not to launch the program, and say doing so would enable state surveillance.

Ms Fong-Jones said she would match funds up to a total of $100,000.

But according to The Intercept's report on Thursday, those working on the project were told that it should be ready for launch between January and April 2019 or sooner. It was in February of that year that Google China chief Scott Beaumont briefed some of the potential candidates for the project on its existence during a meeting in the technology juggernaut's headquarters in Mountain View, California, and it was that gathering that led to some of the first known warnings about the concept being raised by employees.

"As the world's number one search engine, it should be fighting for an Internet where information is freely accessible to everyone, not backing the Chinese government's dystopian alternative", said Joe Westby, a technology and human rights researcher with Amnesty International. "He was just trying to walk back a delicate political situation".

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USA senators are calling for more information on the project Dragonfly, calling it "deeply troubling" as Vice President Mike Pence has called for an immediate end to the platform's development.

That notion appears to have a strong basis in reality seeing how Google's management chose to exit China's Internet search market in 2010, citing unwillingness to work with an oppressive regime that wanted to leverage all local industry actors for the goal of turning them into spying tools that would allow it to continue tightening its grip on public discourse and dissidents.

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