Amnesty International are holding protests across the globe today calling for an end to Googles plan of censoring their search engine in China.
It was revealed that Google secretly built the censored search engine, code-named Dragonfly, to blacklist certain words such as ‘human rights’ and ‘student protest’.
Amnesty have launched a petition to stop works on the ‘dystopian’ platform which are said to launch in China between January and April 2019.
The human rights group say that the move would ‘set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.’
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Amnesty International have launched a petition to stop Google censoring their search engine in China. Activists hold a giant dragonfly-shaped balloon with a banner reading ‘Google, do not censor in China, no to the Dragonfly project’ during a protest outside the firm’s Madrid HQ
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, pictured here, defended his vision for the move by saying Google is ‘compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world’s population’ (file photo)
The platform would link search records to people’s mobile phone numbers and share them with Google’s Chinese partner company, 265.com.
The records would in turn be accessible by authoritarian governments to identify and make arrests of communist party critics and activists, The Intercept reported.
In August, Amnesty and thirteen other human rights organisations wrote to Google to say that moving forward with the plan would ‘directly contribute to human rights violations’.
The groups are said to have received an ‘unsatisfactory response’ which did not address their concerns.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai at first tried to calm the backlash by portraying Dragonfly as an ‘experiment.’
He then defended his vision for the move by saying Google is ‘compelled by our mission to provide information to everyone, and China is 20 per cent of the world’s population.’
Amnesty International activists hold a giant dragonfly-shaped balloon during a protest outside the Google headquarters in Madrid. Google secretly built the censored search engine, code- named Dragonfly, to blacklist certain words such as ‘human rights’ and ‘student protest’
Protesters hold a banner outside the Google offices in Madrid. US senators are calling for more information on the project Dragonfly, calling it ‘deeply troubling’ as Mike Pence has called for an immediate end to the platform’s development
Amnesty have said that such a plan would ‘irreparably damage internet users trust in the tech company’.
‘This is a watershed moment for Google,’ said Joe Westby, Amnesty International’s researcher on technology and human rights.
‘As the world’s No. 1 search engine, it should be fighting for an internet where information is freely accessible to everyone, not backing the Chinese government’s dystopian alternative.’
In recent months, 1,400 employees have written a letter to say that the new plan should be subject to an ethics review and a senior research scientist quit the company in protest.
Amnesty will hold demonstrations outside the tech giant’s buildings in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and other countries. They say the plan would ‘set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments’
US senators are calling for more information on the project Dragonfly, calling it ‘deeply troubling’ as Vice President Mike Pence has called for an immediate end to the platform’s development.
A spokesperson for Google told Mail Online: ‘We’ve been investing for many years to help Chinese users, from developing Android, through mobile apps such as Google Translate and Files Go, and our developer tools.
‘But our work on search has been exploratory, and we are not close to launching a search product in China.’
WHAT IS GOOGLE’S ‘PROJECT DRAGONFLY’ SEARCH ENGINE?
Google intends to launch a controversial censored version of its Search app for China by July 2019.
‘Dragonfly’ is a rumoured effort inside Google to develop a search engine for China that would censor certain terms and news outlets, among other things.
Reports claim the tool ties users’ Google searches to their personal phone numbers to help the Chinese government monitor its citizens.
Outside of high-profile leaks, few details have emerged on what the search engine entails as Google has kept tight-lipped on the project.
A former Google employee warned of the web giant’s ‘disturbing’ plans in a letter sent to the US’s senate’s commerce committee in August.
Jack Poulson said the proposed Dragonfly website was ‘tailored to the censorship and surveillance demands of the Chinese government’.
In his letter he also claimed that discussion of the plans among Google employees had been ‘increasingly stifled’.
Mr Poulson was a senior research scientist at Google until he resigned in July 2018 in protest at the Dragonfly proposals.