1,400 Google Employees Protest Company’s Censored Search Engine For China

Sergey Brin

The letter argues that the search engine project and Google's apparent willingness to accept China's censorship requirements "raise urgent moral and ethical issues".

Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more "transparency, oversight and accountability", according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday. Google spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Addressing this, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai told employees at a meeting that plans to re-enter China with a search engine are "exploratory" and in "early stages".

The employees are reportedly anxious about kowtowing to China by implementing the government's requests for censorship.

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While Google would like to expand its services in China, it is not clear that it would, or could, said Pichai. After those discussions, a company official suggested changing the topic because the executives' comments were already being leaked online, one of the people said.

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.

When the news of a censored search engine was first made public, some Google employees were critical of their company.

Just earlier this year, it was reported that employees protested against Google's collaboration with the Pentagon to improve military tech.

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China has the world's largest Internet audience but has frustrated United States tech giants with content restrictions or outright blockages of services including Facebook and Instagram.

"We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we're building", the letter read. Hundreds of the company's employees have written to headquarters to protest the project, which they say raises "urgent moral and ethical questions".

The new platform, which the BBC understands is known as "Dragonfly" internally, would need to show it was blocking any non-approved words - "religion", "Tiananmen" or "Winnie" (probably). It has been actively seeking a way back into the country ever since. Google pulled its servers from mainland China in 2010 over concerns with government censorship, a decision Brin primarily drove.

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

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