Google employees criticise 'censored China search engine'

  • Google employees criticise 'censored China search engine'

Google employees criticise 'censored China search engine'

Google has been working on an app to bring its censored search engine back to mainland China, in a move that would allow the USA technology company to reach the 772m internet users in China who can not now use its services.

China is home to about 1.4 billion people and one of the potentially biggest markets for Google (or any other company).

It is also the latest example of how Google's outspoken workforce has agitated for changes to strategy.

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

Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions.

In April, thousands of staff criticised its work on a United States military programme developing artificial intelligence for drones.

Outrage stems both from the nature of Dragonfly - a product that some employees feel violates the AI Principles - and that many employees only learned about the search product's existence from news reports, rather than their own bosses.

Google has since ended its AI contract with the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, putting to rest the rumours of Google rolling out a customised version of its popular search engine service in China, CEO Sundar Pichai clarified that the company is not close to launching a search product.

Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly and the remarks at the company meeting are the first time the project has been mentioned since details about it were leaked.

The exit from China was a seminal moment for the company - a symbol of its uncompromising idealism captured by Google's unofficial motto of "Don't Be Evil".

"We, the undersigned, are calling for Code Yellow addressing Ethics and Transparency, asking leadership to work with employees to implement concrete transparency and oversight process", the petition said.

We reached out to Google but had not heard back at time of writing.

Some employees are in favor of re-entering China, arguing that exiting the country in protest of censorship has done little to pressure Beijing to change its position while it has made Google nonessential among the world's largest base of internet users.

"Then the Chinese government can say, 'Google is OK with it too, '" he said.