Company Allowing China to Dictate Controls for Dragonfly Search
Google employees once again are confronting managers over actions they interpret as “evil,” and which go against the company’s core values, according to Buzzfeed.com. This time, it’s over development of a search engine for the Chinese government, which will limit what information users can access. Previously, it was about Maven, an AI system that could be used to interpret drone images better, enabling the U.S. Defense Department to more efficiently kill those deemed enemies.
Employees are circulating a list of demands to management, including an ethics review structure with employees representatives, the appointment of ombudspeople and an ethical assessment of projects, Buzzfeed reported.
The story about the project codenamed “Dragonfly” originally broke August 1 in TheIntercept.com, which described the type of censorship as supporting anything banned by China’s “Great Firewall.”
“The Chinese government blocks information on the internet about political opponents, free speech, sex, news, and academic studies. It bans websites about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for instance, and references to ‘anticommunism’ and ‘dissidents.’ Mentions of books that negatively portray authoritarian governments, like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, have been prohibited on Weibo, a Chinese social media website. The country also censors popular Western social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as American news organizations such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.”
Even worse, the search engine will “blacklist sensitive inquiries” so that “no results will be shown,” according to The Intercept story.
While Google drafted ethics guidelines drafted after 4,000 employees signed a petition against the Maven project, those protesting say the guidelines are ineffective because don’t prevent the company from signing deals without an ethical review.
“Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with human rights group Amnesty International, told The Intercept that Google’s decision to comply with the censorship would be ‘a big disaster for the information age.’ ”
A Vox story explains that the deal with China could impact 1.3 billion people, a giant market that Google hopes to reach for a long time. Working with the authoritarian government, however, is much like doing a deal with the devil. Facebook is working on a social media platform that would similarly comply with Chinese government officials’ demands.
Techspot.com estimates that China now has more than 750 million internet users.