Google again came under pressure to ditch Dragonfly, a censored mobile search app for the Chinese market, with the search giant’s staff and Amnesty International expressing concerns the move could promote state surveillance and impact human rights.
In an open letter, Google employees stated Dragonfly would “enable censorship and government-directed disinformation, and destabilise the ground truth on which popular deliberation and dissent rely”. They said that, despite several organisations asking Google to cancel the project, the response of management “has been unsatisfactory”.
The letter said Google had done the right thing in 2010, when it decided against censoring search results in China. However, they argued the company has since let its employees down through its Dragonfly plan and involvement in a Pentagon programme involving technology which could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes.
“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 decisions,” staff wrote.
The letter comes following the release of documents obtained by The Intercept, an investigative journalism publication, which showed details of Google’s plans including blocking access to a number of websites, including Wikipedia and BBC News.
Google’s effort to re-enter the Chinese market has been linked to wanting to harness data in the country to boost its artificial intelligence capabilities.
Last month, US VP Mike Pence also pushed the company to abandon Dragonfly, urging it to think twice about the human cost of such a programme.
In ,Google chief Sundar Pichai told staff the company was still exploring a potential re-entry to China with the app, but said it was not close to a launch.
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