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Googlers tell execs they feel shut out of plans for censored China search engine

GOOGLERS are revolting.

Specifically, staff at the tech giant have protested in huge numbers at the company’s decision to launch a version of its search engine for the Chinese market, censored to block terms which the notoriously draconian government doesn’t approve of.

For Google, it’s a way of finally regaining some presence in a market in which it currently has little sway. Yes, Android is prevalent, but Google services are not, which means that the income stream for the company is around about zero.

But in a mass revolt, the second this year, Google staff have written to top-brass, warning that there are “urgent moral and ethical questions” about the move adding:

“Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work.”

Since Google quit China in 2010, there have been a number of rumours about a return, subject to local laws, but they have come to nothing. This time, however, although Google continues to stay silent on reports of a censored search, the fact that Googlers have reached this stage suggests there’s some credence.

The new platform, which the BBC understands is known as ‘Dragonfly’ internally, would need to show it was blocking any non-approved words – “religion”, “Tiananmen” or “Winnie” (probably).

Googlers say that this would be a violation of the company’s “don’t be evil” mantra and are demanding more input into any decision about the company’s future plans in the country, to allow them to do their jobs.

Microsoft, which has been working within Chinese government parameters for some time, has fallen foul of one of those rules before, when a chatbot AI couldn’t help but mourn the victims of Tiennamen Square, whilst simultaneously warning the user it would be banned and reported.

That’s the sort of AI conflict that made HAL 9000 go mad. 

INQ experiences in the country are typical of the type of censorship that exists – services we take for granted such as Gmail, WhatsApp and Twitter are all currently banned and following a recent crackdown, VPNs are illegal, though it doesn’t stop most citizens. μ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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