Google employees demand transparency on China search engine plan

19 August, 2018, 14:03 | Author: Lora Ball
  • Report Google Employees Fear Human Rights Violations over China Censorship Plan			Robert Galbraith  UPI		16 Aug 2018

Opinions are divided on that front, but here's what's clear: nobody should be surprised to see this sort of internal activism gaining pace, particularly at a company like Google. An organization whose leadership declares a Code Yellow would identify a person to "own" the problem and an executive to oversee the process of solving it.

A lot has happened to get Google to this point. The alleged product will block social media services already banned in China including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, websites about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, worldwide 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.

The reports that Google wanted to reintroduce search inside China is a reversal from the position the company took in 2010, when managers pulled out of the country instead of capitulating to the government's demands to filter out websites and information that China's leaders found objectionable. The act of censoring is considered by some to be a human-rights violation.

When Google cofounder Sergey Brin explained the reasoning for the move said management objected to the "forces of totalitarianism", in China. "Amid growing fears of biased and weaponised AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public's trust", the signatories wrote, adding: "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war".

The former employees said they doubt the government will welcome back Google. After Google said it would not renew its contract with the Pentagon, it unveiled a series of ethical principles governing its use of AI. Last year, Google announced plans for a research center in China focused on artificial intelligence.

Over 1,400 employees reportedly signed a petition demanding more insight into the project. One Google employee who had stood to ask a question suddenly addressed whomever was surreptitiously leaking information.

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Below is a transcription of the letter.

"To make ethical choices, Googlers need to know what we're building".

The new project is said to be codenamed "Dragonfly".

The project is for a search engine created to comply with the Chinese government's censorship laws.

The multinational tech company withdrew its search engine from China eight years ago due to censorship and hacking.

In the email through which the letter was being circulated, two employees said that individuals "organizing against the latest dubious project can not be our only safeguard against unethical decisions", according to BuzzFeed News. That the decision to build Dragonfly was made in secret, and progressed even with the AI Principles in place makes clear that the Principles alone are not enough.

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