Google employees sign protest letter over China search engine

Google employees sign protest letter over China search engine

The platform, which still requires Chinese government approval, would block certain websites and search terms like human rights and religion.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told staff that though development is in an early stage, providing more services in the world's most populous country fits with Google's global mission.

The letter is similar to one thousands of employees had signed in protest of Project Maven, a U.S. military contract that Google decided in June not to renew.

Following similar action against secretive AI drone imaging program for the USA military, Project Maven, Googlers are once again organising internally to push back against their leadership - this time around a project dubbed Dragonfly, the proposed search product the company intends to build for the Chinese market in accordance with government-mandated censorship.

In a version of the letter obtained by the New York Times, the employees say they lack the "information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment". So Google's interest in returning to China - which it pulled out of in 2010 amid concerns over censorship - comes as no surprise. Undersigned Googlers expect future projects to have an ethics review structure that includes rank and file employee representatives; an ombudspeople; a clear plan to enable Googlers an individual ethical choice; and an ethical assessment of Dragonfly, among other projects.

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After employees petitioned this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the USA military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.

The message asks leadership “to work with employees to implement concrete transparency and oversight processes”.

Google did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post. It has said in the past that it will not comment on Dragonfly or "speculation about future plans". He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can "cause issues". It left in 2010 over an escalating dispute with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyber attacks against Google and other large USA firms. They said the plans could be in violation the company's ethics code, which bars it from building or deploying technology that violates human rights.

A Chinese official, who declined to be named, told Reuters this month it is unlikely Dragonfly would be available this year.

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