Google workers protest against censored research in China: NPR

A security guard stands in front of Google's booth at the China International Import Expo earlier this month in Shanghai.

Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images

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Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images

A security guard stands in front of Google's booth at the China International Import Expo earlier this month in Shanghai.

Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images

Updated at 9:40 am ET

Several Google employees have publicly announced their opposition to the technology giant's plans to create a search engine tailored to the requirements of Chinese censorship.

The project, named Dragonfly, would block some websites and search terms determined by the Chinese government – an initiative that, according to at least nine Google workers, equates to allowing "state surveillance".

"We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months." International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, highlighting serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling Google to cancel the project, "said the first signatories of the letter, who posted his open letter on Medium.

"Until now," they added, "our management's response has been unsatisfactory."

In a project shared with NPR prior to its release, employees initially claimed that company executives had offered "no satisfactory answer".

News from the program was first posted on The Intercept, which reported in August that the custom search engine would "list websites and search terms related to human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful demonstrations ".

Other media, such as The New York Times, corroborated Intercept's reports, noting Google's desire to exploit the vast Chinese market, even though the addition of work on the project does not necessarily mean that its publication is imminent.

Once Google used a similar version of its search engine with similar censorship, it withdrew from the country in 2010 as a result of frictions with Beijing and a violent reaction in the United States.

Employees are not alone in expressing dismay at reports on the development of the new project. In fact, they published their letter the same day that Amnesty International launched its own demonstration. The human rights organization announced that it would contact Google staff to add its name to a petition calling on the CEO, Sundar Pichai, to abolish the project even before it. it can not be launched.

"This is a decisive moment for Google," said Joe Westby, Amnesty International's researcher on technology and human rights, in a statement on Tuesday. "As the number one search engine in the world, it should be fighting for an Internet where information is freely available to all without supporting the dystopian alternative of the Chinese government."

It's also not the first time that Google executives are being squeezed out of their own ranks by the policies of their company. The technology giant has decided not to renew its contract with the Pentagon after its employees revolt against a controversial project using artificial intelligence for the analysis of drone sequences.

"Many of us have accepted a job at Google keeping in mind the values ​​of the company, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and understanding that Google was a company willing to put its values ​​above its profits, "said the employees in their letter of Tuesday. .

"After a year of disappointment, especially with the Maven project, Dragonfly and Google's support for abusers, we no longer believe that it is, and that's why we take a stand." they wrote.

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