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29 Nov 2018 10:00

Plans for Censored Chinese Search Engine Challenged by Google Employees

Despite Google’s departure from the Chinese market in 2010, it now seems plans are going ahead for a state-sanctioned re-entry

David Hughes
David HughesStaff Writer

Frustrated Google Employees have written an open letter to the company’s bosses demanding the abandonment of plans to launch a heavily-censored, China-specific Google search engine.

Revealed in August under the leaked code name “Project Dragonfly”, it would operate in accordance with the censorious Communist Party of China and its “Great Firewall”.

This news comes as concerns grow over Google’s apparent reversal on its attitude towards internet freedom in China. The company had previously publicly withdrawn from the Chinese market following a series of cyber-attacks and opposed restrictions by redirecting traffic to Hong Kong.

At the time, Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin was acknowledged as the “guiding force behind Google’s decision to stop filtering search results in China”, which he himself attributed to growing up in the Soviet Union, “sensitive to the stifling of individual liberties.” Since Brin’s departure, it appears Google’s dedication to an uncensored internet may have gone with him, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently suggesting that it is, “important to explore” the Chinese market.

If the concerns of the employees are justified, this tailor-made prototype app would exclude websites such as Wikipedia and BBC News, alongside various search terms such as “human rights” and “student protests”.

In the letter, the Google employees detail how, “Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company’s values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance” but go on to state, “we no longer believe this is the case.” The plans have also been criticised by human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, that said it, “would set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.”

This will come as a disconcerting development following the capitulation of the messenger app WeChat to Chinese authorities, which remain, according to Freedom House, the chief offender against internet freedom. With Google showing a similar inclination towards appeasement, it may be useful to check out which VPNs still ensure rigorous barriers against Chinese censorship with our Top10VPN guide to the Best VPN for China.