Thu, Nov 29, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Google workers urge end to Chinese search project

CENSORSHIP TOOL?The employees said they object to technologies that aid in oppressing the vulnerable and accused Google of placing profits over its values

Reuters, SAN FRANCISCO

More than 200 engineers, designers and managers at Alphabet Inc’s Google on Tuesday demanded in an open letter that the company end development of a censored search engine for Chinese users, escalating earlier protests against the secretive project.

Google has described the search app, known as “Project Dragonfly,” as an experiment not close to launching.

However, as details of it have leaked since August, current and former employees, human rights advocates and US lawmakers have criticized Google for not taking a harder line against the Chinese government’s policy that politically sensitive results be blocked.

Amnesty International on Tuesday launched a public petition calling on Google to cancel Dragonfly.

The organization said it would encourage Google workers to sign the petition by targeting them on LinkedIn and protesting outside Google offices.

Google on Tuesday declined to comment on the letter as Alphabet shares fell 0.35 percent to US$1,052.28.

Google has long sought to have a bigger presence in China, the world’s largest Internet market. It needs government approval to compete with the country’s dominant homegrown Internet services.

An official at the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, who was unauthorized to speak publicly, told reporters that there was “no indication” from Google that it had adjusted earlier plans to eventually launch the search app.

However, the official described a next year release as “unrealistic,” without elaborating.

About 1,400 of Google’s tens of thousands of workers in August urged the company to improve oversight of ethically questionable ventures, including Dragonfly.

The nine employees who first signed their names on Tuesday’s letter said they had seen little progress.

The letter expresses concern about the Chinese government tracking dissidents through search data and suppressing truth through content restrictions.

“We object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be,” the employees said in the letter published on the blogging service Medium (https://bit.ly/2PY5oqp).

The employees said they no longer believed Google was “a company willing to place its values over profits,” and cited a string of “disappointments” this year, including acknowledgement of a big payout to an executive who had been accused of sexual harassment.

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