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Ryan Gallagher @rj_gallagher
, 26 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
NEW: Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship is “Moral and Ethical” Crisis:…
Google employees have circulated a letter that condemns the Dragonfly project & criticises the secrecy around it. "We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, & a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building," they write.
The employees are demanding that Google leadership begin an ethics review that includes rank & file employee reps, an ombudsperson to oversee the process, more transparency across the company, & “ethical test cases” assessing the China censorship plans.
The effort to write & circulate the letter was partly led by a group of Google employees who previously protested "Project Maven" -- the company’s work with the US military to build artificial intelligence for drones.
Anger has been building inside Google since we disclosed the China censorship plan two weeks ago. Google's leadership has STILL not addressed the issue internally & @Google_Comms is still refusing to answer reporters' questions about it.
Discussion has raged among Google employees, with some questioning their managers, only to be told that details about Dragonfly cannot be shared.
Two Google sources told me they were protesting Dragonfly b/c they believe it's a violation of @theOfficialACM's ethical code, which says its members should “take action to avoid creating systems or technologies that disenfranchise or oppress people.”
(Many Google employees are members of @theOfficialACM, the world’s largest organization for computing professionals.)
This week many Google staff have been sharing an essay authored Brandon Downey, a former Google engineer who says he worked for the company on an earlier version of its censored Chinese search platform.,
Downey calls on Google not to “make the same mistake twice” by launching Dragonfly. “We have a responsibility to the world our technology enables. If we build a tool & give it to people who are hurting other people w/ it, it's our job to try to stop it, or at least, not help it."
Google is facing mounting pressure from outside of the company as well. The company is signed up as a member of the Global Network Initiative, which means that it has committed to implementing a set of principles on freedom of expression & privacy.
The principles appear to prohibit complicity in the sort of broad censorship that is widespread in China, stating that member companies must “respect & work to protect the freedom of expression rights of users” & when facing govt demands to "remove content."
Sources say Google has in recent days engaged with the GNI in response to concerns raised about Dragonfly. Google will have to explain to the GNI's board of directors how its plan to launch a censored search in China is consistent w/ the initiative’s principles.
I spoke to Human Rights Watch senior researcher @cynthiamw, who serves on the GNI's board of directors. She told me Google “owes the Chinese people an explanation of how the firm can launch Dragonfly without being conscripted into human rights abuses.”
Wong added: "If Google re-enters now without any clear strategy as to how its services will improve human rights, it would be a victory for [President] Xi Jinping’s regime & will only serve to legitimize the government’s abusive approach. We haven’t yet heard any such strategy.”
And here's a bonus piece from the cutting room floor: The strange link between Google's China censorship plan & co-founder Sergey Brin's $80 million luxury mega-yacht:…
Also, I've still not received a SINGLE email or call from Google through more than two weeks of sustained reporting on this. I've sent countless emails & more than a dozen questions & not received even a "no comment." Here's some of the qs I want answered:…
Here's a single page w/ links to all my reporting so far on Google's China censorship plans:… #Dragonfly
Yesterday (Thursday), Google bosses finally broke their silence on the China censorship. At an employee all-hands meeting, both CEO Sundar Pichai & co-founder Sergey Brin addressed the project, code-named Dragonfly.
Pichai claimed the project was at an "exploration stage," said the project was "not close" to launching, and - in response to criticism that Dragonfly has been shrouded in excessive secrecy - promised more transparency, sources say.
Pichai's statements are totally at odds with confidential Google documents & other info I have seen about Dragonfly. Employees working on the project were told as recently as last month to have it "launch ready" pending approval from Beijing.
Remarkably, co-founder Brin told staff during Thursday's meeting that he *did not know* about Dragonfly until we exposed it. That is stunning given his well-documented opposition to China censorship. It was Brin who pushed in 2010 for Google to cease operating search in China.
So it begs the question: why was Brin, a co-founder of Google, not told about a project of such massive political & strategic importance to the company?
Were details about Dragonfly deliberately withheld from Brin due to his anti-censorship views? Was it ever discussed *at all* at board level of the company? Did Larry Page, Google's other co-founder, know about it?
Also, why was Google's China censorship plan called Dragonfly, the same name as Brin's $80 million luxury yacht? Coincidence, or is somebody at Google trolling him?…
I will have more on these remarkable developments later today.
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