Hundreds of Google employees protest against censored research

More than 240 Google employees signed an open letter calling on the company to abandon its censored search engine project in China, as protesters took to the streets of eight cities to condemn the secret project.

The letter was published Tuesday morning and signed by a group of 11 engineers, managers and researchers from Google. In the early evening, 230 other employees had added their names to the letter, expressing a tremendous display of anger and frustration at Google's leadership over the censored research plan known as Dragonfly.

The search engine was designed by Google to censor expressions relating to human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protests, in accordance with strict censorship rules imposed by the authoritarian Chinese government. The search platform would link Chinese users' search records to their mobile phone numbers and share the search history of people with a Chinese partner company, which means that Chinese security agencies, which regularly target activists and critics, could get the data.

Google employees said on Tuesday that they thought the company was no longer "willing to put its values ​​above its profits." They wrote that the Chinese search engine "would cause Google to become complicit in oppression and human rights violations" and misinformation directed. They added:

Our opposition to Dragonfly does not concern China: we oppose technologies that help the powerful to oppress the most vulnerable, wherever they are. The Chinese government is certainly not alone in wanting to stifle freedom of expression and use surveillance to crack down on dissent. Dragonfly in China would set a dangerous precedent at an unstable political moment, preventing Google from denying other countries similar concessions.

In August, 1,400 Google employees protested privately against Dragonfly. Many of them anonymously signed a letter that was distributed within the company. Event organizers have so far sought to keep their discontent within their company, believing that negotiating with management away from the media would be the best way to address their concerns, sources said.

But organizers are increasingly unhappy with corporate executives who have refused to answer questions about Dragonfly and engage on human rights issues. This is one of the main reasons why employees decided Tuesday to release a new letter, which was not signed anonymously, which was an unprecedented reprimand against business leaders.

The authors claimed that they supported a series of protests against Dragonfly organized by the human rights group Amnesty International, which took place Tuesday in front of Google offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia , Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and London. Spain.

Amnesty activists were photography Outside of Google's buildings, placards invited the company to "listen to your affected employees," "do not be a brick in the Chinese firewall" and "do not contribute to Internet censorship in China." In Madrid, the group inflated giant dragonfly-shaped balloon that he floated in front of Google offices in town.

Amnesty has issued a petition calling Google to cancel the censored search engine. The group said in a statement that the platform "would irreparably damage the trust of Internet users" in Google and would constitute "a dangerous precedent for technology companies allowing governments to violate their rights."

Google faced a growing number of events as its employees became more organized and emboldened. Earlier this month, the company's employees staged a general strike on management's handling of allegations of sexual harassment and other grievances. In April, thousands of employees voiced concerns about a project involving the development of artificial intelligence for US military drones.

Google has not commented on the employee's letter or Amnesty's protests. The company said in a general statement that its "work on research has been exploratory, and we are about to launch a research product in China".

As The Intercept has already pointed out, the company's research manager privately told his employees that Google's goal was to launch the search engine between January and April 2019. "We need to focus on what we want to activate, "said Ben Gomes. "And then, when the opening happens, we are ready for that."

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