Back in August, leaked documents surfaced regarding Google’s plans to build a censored version of its search engine for the Chinese market.
According to The Intercept, which first broke the story, the project (code-name: “Dragonfly”) has been in the oven since 2017 and has been designed to blacklist phrases such as “human rights,” “Nobel Prize,” and “student protest.”
But, as of Tuesday evening, 310 Google employees signed a public letter asking CEO Sundar Pichai and the rest of management to cancel plans to build the censored search engine, because, well… Censorship bad. Freedom good.
This isn’t the first time the issue has been raised
When the documents leaked in the summer, around 1.4k employees signed a letter raising ethical questions about the project (several employees, including a senior research scientist, resigned because of it).
And the beef doesn’t stop there: In the past year, Google employees have become increasingly more outspoken about how the company’s tech and power should be used.
This month, 20k Google employees walked out in protest of the alleged multimillion-dollar sexual misconduct payouts among high-level execs.
Google opened an ethical can of worms it can’t seem to close
In April, thousands of employees signed a petition calling for Google to end a potentially dubious $10B cloud partnership with the Pentagon that would improve the Pentagon’s AI and image-recognition tech used for drone strikes — and, surprisingly, it worked.
A few months later, Google honored its employees’ concerns and pulled out of the $10B project (a move only Google could afford to make).
It’s a good thing that Google’s employees feel empowered to share their opinions through protest, and it’s even more encouraging to see that sometimes even a multinational corporation like Google will listen — after all, the company’s damn slogan is “Don’t Be Evil.”
HT: What in the sweet name of Ask Jeeves does “Don’t Be Evil” mean?! Without specifics, “evil” is a vague and — as Google is learning — highly subjective concept. It’s time for the higher-ups at Google to define what ‘evil’ actually is to them.