Published: Sun, August 19, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Google employees question company plans for Chinese search engine

Google employees question company plans for Chinese search engine

Google officials are also requested to have internally visible communications regarding “any new areas of substantial ethical concern”.

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".

It's worth noting that Google's top management hasn't yet spoken on the Dragonfly project. Sundar Pichai told a company-wide meeting that providing more services in the world's most populous country fits with Google's global mission. But plans to engineer a censored version of its services for China have got Google staff up in arms, with employees questioning the morality of the endeavour.

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.

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.

Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly and the remarks at the company meeting are the first time the project has been mentioned since details about it were leaked. A possible re-entry to China, according to current and former employees, is a sign of a more mature and pragmatic company. Last year, Google announced plans for a research center in China focused on artificial intelligence.

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The tech giant had already come under fire this year from thousands of employees who signed a petition against a $10-million contract with the United States military, which was not renewed.

The discussions became tense when Google's leaders discovered that someone attending the meeting or listening in remotely was supplying live information to Conger, the Times reporter. The government would have to approve its return and it has kept US technology firms like Facebook at arm's length, opting instead to work closely with homegrown internet behemoths.

China now has the world's largest online market, with 772 million internet users. If anything, China has only tightened its controls in the last eight years - leaving the company in a bind for how to justify its return.

"F- you", he said.

However, eventually Google pulled out of China completely in 2010 after several large-scale attacks on the company purportedly by the Chinese government.

The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google.

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