Google employees signed on to an “open letter” demanding the company cease work on a project called Dragonfly, which they say is a search engine that will incorporate Chinese government censorship in its results and provide data to the government that may lead to greater oppression and human rights abuses. Ars Technica reports.
Google shut down its Chinese search engine in 2010 rather than comply with Chinese law. Dragonfly, which appears to be the evolution of a project The Intercept first reported on in August, would be a drastic about-face. Dissident employees wrote in a Medium post:
Providing the Chinese government with ready access to user data, as required by Chinese law, would make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses.
Dragonfly would also enable censorship and government-directed disinformation, and destabilize the ground truth on which popular deliberation and dissent rely. Given the Chinese government’s reported suppression of dissident voices, such controls would likely be used to silence marginalized people, and favor information that promotes government interests.
The Intercept first reported that Google had developed an Android app, which it had demonstrated to the government, which would “blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest.” Following the report, Google CEO Sundar Pichai insisted that the company was “not close to launching a search product” in China, but didn’t foreclose the possibility forever.
This most recent employee insurrection follows an April letter signed by 3,000 employees demanding Google cease developing AI for military drones, and November’s mass walkout in protest over sexual misconduct policy. Both those previous actions resulted in some positive consequences, Ars notes.