Google not close to launching censored search engine in China

Marco Green
August 17, 2018

More than 1,000 Google staff have revolted over plans to relaunch a censored version of its search engine for China.

Mr Pichai told staff Google's mission was to "organise the world's information".

In the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, employees wrote that the project and Google's apparent willingness to abide by China's censorship requirements "raise urgent moral and ethical issues".

At a town hall gathering of employees on Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the firm was committed to transparency, and that while it was "exploring many options", it was "not close to launching a search product in China", the Financial Times reported, citing a person present at the meeting.

Some employees are said to be in favor of re-entering China, saying the decision to exit didn't really cause much trouble to local authorities and Google is missing out on the worlds largest base of internet users.

According to reports, the company is seeking Chinese government approval for a mobile search service called Dragonfly, that would censor some websites and search terms.

The letter is similar to one thousands of employees had signed in protest of Project Maven, a USA military contract that Google decided in June not to renew.

Disclosure of the secretive effort has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations.

"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", states the document seen by Reuters. Google declined to comment. Yet most of us only learned about project Dragonfly through news reports [in] early August.

More than 3,500 employees signed a letter protesting against the company's work with the Pentagon's surveillance drones programme.

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.

Three former employees involved with Google's past efforts in China told Reuters current leadership may see offering limited search results in China as better than providing no information at all.

Google services, including its search engine, Gmail and Google Drive, are all blocked in China.

In their letter, which was shared with various media organisations, they also argue it would violate the "don't be evil" clause in Google's code of conduct.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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