by WorldTribune Staff, August 19, 2018
More than 1,400 employees at Google have signed a letter protesting the tech giant’s development of a new search engine for China that kowtows to the communist country’s strict censorship policy.
The search engine project, known as Dragonfly, and prospects for Google’s return to China “raise urgent moral and ethical issues,” the letter said. Google employees have however been silent on the controversy over social media censorship in the United States, American journalist Joe Schaeffer noted.
“Most of us only learned about project Dragonfly through news reports in early August,” Google employees wrote.
“Dragonfly is reported to be an effort to provide Search and personalized mobile news to China, in compliance with Chinese government censorship and surveillance requirements. Eight years ago, as Google pulled censored web search out of China, Sergey Brin explained the decision, saying: ‘in some aspects of [government] policy, particularly with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents, I see some earmarks of totalitarianism.’ Dragonfly and Google’s return to China raise urgent moral and ethical issues, the substance of which we are discussing elsewhere,” the letter said.
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes,” the workers wrote in the letter. “Google employees need to know what we’re building.”
Writing for Liberty Nation on Aug. 18, former Washington Times editor Schaeffer asked: “Where is the concern by Google employees over similar efforts already underway in America today?”
The letter from Google employees also calls for a “Code Yellow” at Google – internal lingo for a serious situation that bears immediate attention.
Ryan Gallagher at The Intercept, citing leaked Google documents, reported that the Dragonfly search engine “would remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. It would ‘blacklist sensitive queries’ so that ‘no results will be shown’ at all when people enter certain words or phrases.”
Facebook, Apple and YouTube – which is owned by Google – “orchestrating a synchronized de-platforming of popular conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should send shivers down the backs of those worried about free speech on the Internet,” Schaeffer wrote.
“But flat-out banning undesirable opinion is not the only way Google’s YouTube can squelch unfettered discourse online. Last year YouTube debuted its ‘limited state’ censorship policy for videos that did not violate its user terms but nevertheless were considered “’nappropriate or offensive to some audiences.’ ”
WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange said scornfully of the policy: “What’s interesting about the new method deployed is that it is a clear attempt at social engineering. It isn’t just turning off the ads. It’s turning off the comments, embeds, etc. too. Everything possible to strangle the reach without deleting it.”
Schaeffer noted: “Who needs Big Tech partnering with state-sponsored censors in communist nations when we have them already feverishly at work on developing a socially engineered Internet right where we live?”