U.S. Tech Companies Agreeing to Censorship Is Bad for Human Rights

Facebook is said to be developing strong censorship tools so as to get approval from the Chinese government. (Image:  Robert Scoble  via  wikimedia  CC BY 2.0 )
Facebook is said to be developing strong censorship tools so as to get approval from the Chinese government. (Image: Robert Scoble via wikimedia CC BY 2.0 )

U.S. tech companies like Google and Facebook are increasingly courting Beijing in a bid to break into the Chinese market. But the cost of entry requires them to accept censorship and be a partner to grievous human rights violations, actions that will have dire consequences even in the United States.

Kneeling before censorship

Google pulled out of China in 2010 after it refused to accept the government’s censorship demands. Eight years later, greed for profit seems to have gripped the company, as it is reportedly developing a censored version of its search engine for use in China.

Codenamed “Dragonfly,” this new version of the search engine will blacklist websites that the Chinese government deems dangerous. In addition, content relating to democracy, free speech, human rights, religion, etc. will also be removed as per government dictates. All websites blocked by the country’s firewall will also be filtered out from search results by Google, including the likes of Wikipedia, BBC, etc.

Google's new search engine, codenamed “Dragonfly”, will blacklist websites that the Chinese government deems dangerous. (Image: Fan Yang via wikimedia CC BY 2.0 )

Google’s new search engine, codenamed ‘Dragonfly,’ will blacklist websites that the Chinese government deems dangerous. (Image: Fan Yang via wikimedia CC BY 2.0 )

“For the world’s biggest search engine to adopt such extreme measures would be a gross attack on freedom of information and Internet freedom. In putting profits before human rights, Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory,” The Irish Times quotes Patrick Poon from Amnesty International.

Facebook is also said to be developing strong censorship tools so as to get approval from the Chinese government. In 2016, the company was reportedly testing software that would suppress certain posts from appearing in people’s feeds. This software was supposed to be given to a government approved company that would then use it to filter out stories and posts it feels are against China.

Employees protest

Disturbed by Google bowing down to Chinese censorship demands, several employees from the company’s Alphabet Inc unit filed an internal petition asking the company to disclose the true nature of its relationship with China’s government and the “Dragonfly” version it is developing.

“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 Epoch Times quotes the employee petition.

The workers have demanded that Google set up an ethics committee that will review and publish assessments regarding projects like Dragonfly that raise serious ethical questions.

Potential dangers for the U.S.

The compliance of tech companies like Google and Facebook to censorship demands from China also poses a serious threat to the U.S. — that these companies will eventually use such censorship tools within the United States. A case in point is the subjugation of the conservative media outlet InfoWars, run by Alex Jones.

Companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. had banned the videos of the channel on the grounds of hate speech, even though none of the videos actually called for any violence. Alex also warned his followers that the tech companies were testing out censorship tools in the U.S.

Alex Jones warned his followers that the tech companies were testing out censorship tools in the US. (Image: Sean P. Anderson via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Alex Jones warned his followers that the tech companies were testing out censorship tools in the U.S. (Image: Sean P. Anderson via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

“Google is building a huge censorship search engine for them [China], and whistleblowers from inside Google say they’re preparing to use it here in America. In fact, they’re beta testing different parts of the system for China on American conservatives, nationalists, and Trump supporters,” Alex warns in a Twitter post.

While Alex’s warning might sound very ominous, it is, unfortunately, true that there seems to be an effort by the tech companies to silence conservative voices in the U.S. And the only way to counter such threats is by holding tight to the right of freedom of speech that the U.S. Constitution guarantees.

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