Google Employees Protest Work On Chinese Search Engine Project

Hundreds of Google employees signed a petition protesting the company’s secret project to develop a censored version of its search engine for China.

In a letter, posted by Buzzfeed and first reported by the New York Times, the employees said that work on the project and Google’s return to China raises “urgent moral and ethical issues.”

The employees also complained that they do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about their work, projects and employment. They called for more transparency to understand the ethical consequences of their work.

The employees added that most of them learned about the secret project, code-named Dragonfly, only through news reports early August. They have called for the implementation of a Code Yellow on Ethics & Transparency at Google.

Media reports in early August indicated that Google plans to launch a new censored version of its search engine in China, the country where most of its services are blocked.

Google is trying to keep a foothold in China, a market from which the Alphabet unit retreated eight years ago in protest over government hacking and censorship.

Work on Dragonfly, which has been in progress since spring of last year, was accelerated after Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly had a meeting with a top Chinese government official.

Dragonfly is reported to be an effort to provide search and personalized mobile news to China, in compliance with Chinese government censorship and surveillance requirements.

This is not the first time that Google’s employees have protested against the company’s decisions.

In April, thousands of Google employees urged Pichai to pull out of Project Maven, a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to analyze video imagery used by military drones.

In a letter to the CEO, the employees urged that Google withdraw from Project Maven. They also asked Google to publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither the company nor its contractors will “ever build warfare technology.”

Google later said in June that it will not allow its artificial-intelligence products to be used in military weapons.

The company outlined how it plans to manage — and in some cases limit — the application of artificial intelligence, a powerful and emerging set of technologies that Google views as key to its growth.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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