Google employees speak up against 'censored search engine for China'

Sundar Pichai in an olive green jacket and jeans standing onstage at the Shoreline Amphitheater Mountain View

As was evidenced when Google employees protested the company's involvement with Project Maven, a project which helped the U.S. Government use A.I.to improve the accuracy of drone strikes, Google's workforce can be steadfast in their demonstrations.

The letter is circulating on Google's internal system and has, so far, been signed by around 1,400 employees. According to a letter obtained by The New York Times, Google's "apparent willingness to abide by China's censorship requirements "raise urgent moral and ethical issues". It has not gone unnoticed by employees that Google's leaders have yet to address the censored search-engine reports internally, two weeks after the news first came out.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin at the same staff meeting said the search giant would not compromise its principles.

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

At one point, Pichai said the company is not close to launching a search product in China, according to another person who attended the meeting. Pichai pledged transparency as the development process advances and cast the potential for business in China as a boost to Google's mission.

In 2006, the search engine was introduced to Chinese internet users, but after many quarrels with the Chinese government, it moved its servers to Hong Kong, which has fewer restrictions on the internet. The alleged product will block social media services already banned in China including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, websites about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, global media such as the BBC and New York Times, Wall Street Journal, references to "anticommunism" and "dissidents", mentions of books that negatively portray authoritarian governments, like George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm. Yet most of us only learned about project Dragonfly through news reports early August.

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Reuters reported this month, the app is a bid to win approval from Beijing to provide a mobile search engine in China.

China has the world's largest internet audience but USA tech firms have struggled to take off in China due to content restrictions and blockages.

A Google representative was not immediately available for comment.

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The workers asked for a code yellow (an engineering term for a serious issue) addressing ethics and transparency, including the appointment of ombudspeople and the publication of "ethical test cases". "We definitely do plan to engage more and talk more".

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