Google staff demand oversight of China search engine plan

Google staff demand oversight of China search engine plan

"We are not close to launching a search product in China", Pichai said, according to a transcript of the meeting provided to Bloomberg.

Google's plans to engineer a censored version of its services for China have got Google staff up in arms, with employees questioning the morality of the endeavour.

According to the New York Times, Google employees are anxious that they have been unwittingly working to facilitate a strictly-controlled internet for Chinese users that could block search access to topics such as human rights and environmental protection.

Hoping to gain approval from the Chinese government to provide a mobile search service, the company plans to block some websites and search terms, Reuters reported this month, citing unnamed sources.

This triggered an outrage among some Google staff who complained of lack of transparency within the company.

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In the email through which the letter was being circulated, two employees said that individuals "organizing against the latest dubious project can not be our only safeguard against unethical decisions", according to BuzzFeed News.

But are these Google employees right to see acquiescence to Chinese censorship as the wrong path?

Google co-founder Sergey Brin also spoke to the staff on Thursday (Aug 16) at the company's all-hands meeting, saying that Google isn't compromising its principles.

Google declined to comment on the letter.

However, Pichai did hint at doing more in the country which is infamous for its restrictive internet policies. Nicknamed 'Dragonfly, ' the project is a 180-degree turn from Google's past experience in China.

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The discussions became tense when Google's leaders discovered that someone attending the meeting or listening in remotely was supplying live information to Conger, the New York Times reporter. The obvious flip flop angered and saddened many at Google who believe Brin and the other leaders have abandoned at least some of their well-publicized ethical values.

In June, Google decided against renewing a U.S. military contract called Project Maven after staff penned a separate letter. After Google said it would not renew its contract with the Pentagon, it unveiled a series of ethical principles governing its use of AI.

Over 1,400 employees reportedly signed a petition demanding more insight into the project. "He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can 'cause issues".

Google stopped offering search in China in 2010 following a political dispute between Beijing and Washington over hacking.

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