About a thousand Google employees have signed a letter protesting the company’s efforts to build a censored version of its search engine in China, as reported by The New York Times.
The employees are demanding more transparency so they can understand the moral implications of their work, said the Times, which obtained a copy of the letter.
It has been signed by 1,400 employees and is circulating on the company’s internal communications system, the newspaper said, quoting three people who are familiar with the document.
The letter argues that the search engine project and Google’s apparent willingness to accept China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.”
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” the letter said. It also asked the company to let employees be a part of ethics reviews and publish ethical assessments of projects that are seen as controversial. The letter said Google’s willingness to work within China’s censorship laws raises “urgent moral and ethical issues,” and that employees currently don’t have the information needed “to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects and our employment.”
Employee anger flared with a report earlier this month in The Intercept that Google is secretly building a search engine that will filter content banned in China and thus meet Beijing’s tough censorship rules.
The multinational tech company withdrew its search engine from China eight years ago due to censorship and hacking.
Google did not immediately respond to comment. The company has repeatedly ignored requests for comment, despite being responsive to commenting on other stories. Its sole statement on its situation in China is from August 3rd: “We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com. But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.”’