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Google employees criticise 'censored China search engine'

17 August 2018

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

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.

More than a thousand Google employees have signed a letter protesting the company's secretive plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.

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The letter said Google's willingness to work within China's censorship laws raises "urgent moral and ethical issues", and that employees now don't have the information needed "to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects and our employment".

Employee anger flared with a report this month in The Intercept that Google is secretly building a search engine that will filter content banned in China and thus meet Beijing's tough censorship rules.

Google, which has never spoken publicly about the plans, declined to comment. Google pulled its servers from mainland China in 2010 over concerns with government censorship, a decision Brin primarily drove.

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Some employees are said to be in favor of re-entering China, saying the decision to exit didn't really cause much trouble to local authorities and Google is missing out on the worlds largest base of internet users. After those discussions, a company official suggested changing the topic because the executives' comments were already being leaked online, one of the people said. "I think if we were to do our mission well, I think we have to think seriously about how we do more in China", he added, according to Bloomberg.

The China petition says employees are concerned the project, code named Dragonfly, "makes clear" that ethics principles Google issued during the drone debate "are not enough".

In their letter, which was shared with various media organisations, they also argue it would violate the "don't be evil" clause in Google's code of conduct. More than 1,400 workers have signed an internal letter, according to the New York Times, calling on the company to establish an oversight process to review the China project and other plans that "raise urgent moral and ethical issues".

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"I genuinely do believe we have a positive impact when we engage around the world and I don't see any reason why that would be different in China", Pichai said.

Google employees criticise 'censored China search engine'