A Google employee has resigned from the company after it was discovered that it has agreed to the censorship demands of the Chinese Communist Party in order to gain access to the domestic market. The company’s move has sparked widespread protests, not just from employees within the company, but also from Internet rights activists.
When news broke out in August that Google was working with China for a censored version of its search engine, Jack Poulson was morally conflicted. An employee at the company’s research and machine intelligence department, he made his apprehensions very clear to his bosses. And by the end of August, Poulson tended his resignation as he believed he could no longer work at a company that acted against freedom of speech and basic human rights.
“I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe. There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands,” Tech Times quotes Poulson’s resignation letter.
Poulson is very concerned that Google has decided to store all customer data within China itself, giving the country’s security agencies full access to all the information they want about any specific user. And given the brutal history of the Communist Party, Poulson believes that Beijing might use Google’s personal data to target journalists and activists who speak for freedom and equality.
Google’s project to develop a censored search engine for China has been nicknamed Dragonfly. Out of the nearly 88,000 employees working at Google, only a few knew about project Dragonfly.
After details of the project leaked, about 1,400 employees wrote a letter asking Google to address the ethical concerns they had regarding the project. But Google has maintained silence, never addressing any of the concerns raised by its employees or rights activists.
CEO Sundar Pichai was due to attend a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that would have probed the company’s new censored web for China. However, Pichai skipped the meeting, reinforcing the growing belief that Google was sacrificing every single ideal of free speech it had propagated until now in exchange for Chinese market access.
Protests by human rights groups
In August, a group of rights organizations criticized Google’s arrangement with Beijing in an open letter. They demanded that the company end its relationship with the Chinese communist government and uphold freedom of the Internet.
“As it stands, Google risks becoming complicit in the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and other human rights in China. Google should heed the concerns raised by human rights groups and its own employees and refrain from offering censored search services in China,” Business Insider quotes the letter.
By agreeing to censor results for the Chinese government, Google is pushing the tech industry into an unethical route where profits reign supreme. As Poulson states in his letter, Google’s actions will now trigger similar censorship requests from other governments across the world that will want to keep a tight control over its people. Google has literally crucified freedom of the Internet for a few pennies offered by China.