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Google employees petition for shut down of China search engine project



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  • Google
    employees have signed a petition asking Google to cancel its
    controversial Chinese search engine project, internally
    codenamed “Dragonfly.”
  • Dragonfly has received scrutiny from both human rights
    organizations and politicians for its reported ambitions to
    establish a search engine that would surrender data to the
    Chinese government, as well as censor certain searches, like
    “human rights.” 
  • In this most recent letter to Google executives, Google
    employees implore the company to shut down the project

On Tuesday morning, several Google employees signed a petition
asking Google to shut down work on its controversial censored
search engine for China, internally referred to as “Dragonfly.”
As of 10 am ET, the petition had been signed by eleven Google
engineers, with a note that said that more signatures would be

Since it was revealed
in a report by The Intercept in August,
Dragonfly work has come under intense scrutiny for its reported
intentions to blacklist words like “human rights” and “student
protest” from its search results, in addition to providing a form
of data surveillance to the Chinese government, which requires
companies operating in the country to allow government access to
user data.

Human rights group Amnesty International has launched a campaign
in protest of Dragonfly, which the group of Google employees said
they stood in solidarity with in Tuesday’s letter.

“We are Google employees, and we join Amnesty International in
calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google’s effort to
create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that
enables state surveillance,” the petition reads. 

This is the second letter by Google employees in recent months
petitioning the company to reconsider moving forward with project
Dragonfly. In late August,
The Intercept reported
that more than 1,400 Google employees
had signed an internal letter requesting greater transparency on
the company’s China search engine plans, along with an ethics
review of the project.

Google did not respond to an immediate request for comment. 

Read the full petition below: 

We are Google employees and we
 in calling
on Google to cancel project Dragonfly
, Google’s effort
to create a
censored search
 engine for the Chinese
market that enables
state surveillance

We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices
for months. International human
 organizations and investigative
have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious
human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel
the project. So far, our leadership’s response has been

Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object
to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the
vulnerable, wherever they may be.
Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to
stifle freedom of expression, and to use surveillance to repress
dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent
at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for
Google to deny other countries similar concessions.

Our company’s decision comes as the Chinese government is openly
expanding its
surveillance powers
 and tools of population
control. Many of these rely on advanced technologies, and combine
online activity, personal records, and mass monitoring to track
and profile citizens. Reports are already showing who bears the
cost, including Uyghurs, women’s
rights advocates
, and students.
Providing the Chinese government with ready access to user data,
as required
by Chinese law
, would make Google complicit in oppression and
human rights abuses.

Dragonfly would also enable censorship and government-directed
disinformation, and destabilize the ground truth on which popular
deliberation and dissent rely. Given the Chinese government’s
reported suppression of dissident voices, such controls would
likely be used to silence marginalized people, and favor
information that promotes government interests.

Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company’s
values in mind, including its previous
 on Chinese censorship and
surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company
willing to place its values above its profits. After a year of
disappointments including Project
, Dragonfly, and Google’s
support for abusers
, we no longer believe this is the case.
This is why we’re taking a stand.

We join with Amnesty International in demanding that Google
cancel Dragonfly. We also demand that leadership commit
to transparency,
clear communication, and real accountability
. Google is too
powerful not to be held accountable. We deserve to know what
we’re building and we deserve a say in these significant


David H. Alexander, Senior Software Engineer
Pierre Bourdon, Senior Software Engineer
Damien Desfontaines, Privacy Engineer
Amr Gaber, Software Engineer
Colin McMillen, Staff Software Engineer
Steven Monacelli, Program Manager
Matthew Siegler, Senior Software Engineer
Joëlle Skaf, Staff Software Engineer
Zora Tung, Software Engineer
Meredith Whittaker, Google Open Research Lead
Jean Zheng, Senior Staff Technology Manager


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