News of Google's censored Chinese search engine project Dragonfly has steadily leaked since August, angering many of the company's own employees - especially after the response that filtered down from the higher-ups was essentially: yes, we might compromise core values for business. A group of over 170 employees have now banded together to address the issue publicly with an article and petition posted on Medium in partnership with Amnesty International entitled "We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly."
As a quick refresher: news of a new Chinese search engine project called Dragonfly broke on August 1st. The Intercept reported that the in-development app will exclude certain blacklisted topics and phrases from search results, as well results from some sources, including the BBC and Wikipedia. Subsequently, it was reported that an unnamed Chinese partner could selectively edit search result pages, and that users would be tracked through a mandatory log-in and the user's personal phone number.
The Google employees against Dragonfly stated in their joint Medium post: "Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be." In this case, they noted that Google's project comes as the Chinese government is "openly expanding its surveillance powers and tools of population control," with some of the main victims being Uyghurs (a Turkic demographic), women's rights advocates, and students. The employees also underlined the fact that they are disappointed in the company:
"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. This is why we're taking a stand."
As the Googlers mentioned, the company was once more opposed to censorship in China. In 2010 Google pulled out of China and co-founder Sergey Brin said China's attempts to enforce censorship had "the earmarks of totalitarianism." Apparently Brin changed his thinking on the matter, because The Wall Street Journal reported a few months ago that in an August meeting he said management for Chinese projects requires a "certain set of trade-offs." What's unclear is whether the company is willing to contend with the trade-off of a potentially precipitous dip in staff morale.