Google experiencing employee backlash over censored China search engine

Avatar By Tyler MacDonald | 2 years ago

Since the start of Google’s development of a censored search engine for China, the company is facing a “moral and ethical crisis” as hundreds of employees protest the project. Approximately 1,400 of the company’s employees signed a letter to the company’s executives this week asking for details on the project as well as transparency.

“Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment,” they wrote in the letter.

As of now, Google executives aren’t publicly stating whether they will go along with the project. However, if top executives go along with the demands, it will mark a shift in the company’s corporate priorities and highlight the fact that workers have power over shareholders.

Former Google engineer Brandon Downey says that he regrets helping the company create their first censorship tool in China, and recently wrote an essay about what he believes is at stake.

“Google is acting like a traditional company; one that squeezes every dime out of the marketplace, heedless of intangibles like principle, ethical cost, and even at the risk of the safety of its users…” he said. “If technology is a tool, then it means the people making that tool have a responsibility to curb their tool’s misuse by playing a role in the decisions on how it gets used.”

“And if the people who are the leaders of the company don’t believe this, they should hear it in plainer and clearer terms: namely, you do not become one of the largest companies in the history of capitalism without the assistance of the workers making those tools,” he continued.