A number of Google employees have signed a letter attacking the company’s plan to get market share in China via censoring results. The employees said an attack on China is not the goal. Rather, the censorship, which could happen other places, is their target.
Google management has named the China initiative “Dragonfly.” It is an attempt to get back market share from years ago. That share has been lost primarily to local search company Baidu. China has insisted that a search engine operating within the nation must abide by its rules about what results can be shown. Some Google employees claim the company wants to trade profits for ethics.
In part, the letter reads:
We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly.
We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google’s effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.
We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project. So far, our leadership’s response has been unsatisfactory.
Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.
The letter is signed by dozens of employees, who obviously do not care if management knows their names.
Google management may ignore the plea and do what it needs to if it wants back into China. The decision will come, at least, with a negative public perception among both employees and outsiders, which will include the press, Google users and probably Washington.