Rights groups urge Google to abandon its plans for censored China search engine

DHARAMSALA, August 29: Amid reports suggesting that Google is secretly planning a relaunch in China with a censored version of its search engine, as many as 14 human rights groups have urged Google not to bend to China and abandon any plans to craft a censored version of its search engine in China.

A letter signed by human rights groups and advocacy organizations has maintained that the project –code-named Dragonfly, which Google has not publicly confirmed, “would represent an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights.”

“Google risks becoming complicit in the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and other human rights in China,” the letter read.

The groups further said Google should heed the concerns raised by human rights groups and its own employees and refrain from offering censored search services in China. Calls were also made for Google to protect employees and whistle-blowers speaking out against the project.

Google’s plan to relaunch in China with a censored search engine has been underway since spring of last year and accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official.

Dragonfly, the censored China search engine will censor websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest.

“Google — and all foreign companies — should remember: The vessel containing a dictatorship’s desire is boundless, never filled, never satisfied. You give an inch, and they will take a mile in irrational demands,” Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng has said in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post.

After media reports shed light on Google’s secret plans for a censored China search engine, Google experienced a ‘moral and ethical crisis’, reports the vox.com

As many as 1,400 google employees expressed concern that the company is violating its own ethical principles and have signed a petition seeking more details and transparency about the project, and demanded employee input in decisions about what kind of work Google takes on, the report added.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Access Now, Article 19, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights in China, International Service for Human Rights, PEN International, Privacy International and Witness are signatory to the letter.

Google withdrew its search engine from China eight years ago in 2010, due to censorship, hacking and in protest of China’s human rights violations.

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