As of 5pm on Tuesday, more than 300 Alphabet and Google employees have signed an open letter demanding Google cease working on the development of its new Chinese search engine, code named “Project Dragonfly”.
Ever since Google was first banned in China back in 2010 due to the Chinese governments censorship requirements, it has been trying to re-enter the massive Chinese market which currently boasts the most internet users located in one region and the fastest growing internet user base in the world.
Project Dragonfly appeared to be Google’s solution to this issue: A specially made search engine for China which would abide by the nation’s strict censorship standards. However, the highly secretive project has faced staunch criticism from human rights activists who allege Google is “directly contributing to or [becoming] complicit in human rights violations”.
More than 1,400 Google employees protested back in August 2018 against Project Dragonfly as well as a $10bn contract with the US Pentagon Google was considering competing for. While Google ultimately decided not to pursue the Pentagon contract, they still seem to be working on Project Dragonfly.
In response to this perceived inaction, engineers, designers and managers from across the company have all signed a petition to further encourage the tech giant to back out of the project.
The letter, which was posted on Medium, elaborates on many of these concerns, saying: “Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company’s values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company willing to place its values above its profits.
“After a year of disappointments including Project Maven, Dragonfly, and Google’s support for abusers, we no longer believe this is the case,” it added.
Google showed support for another employee demonstration in November 2018 when Google staff staged a mass walkout in protest of how the company had handled sexual misconduct allegations. However, the firm has yet to respond to this open letter as of the writing of this article.