Human Rights Organisations Comes After Google

Over a dozen Human Rights Organizations have urged Google to abandon a product they are building in China as they said it will affect Human Rights.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and other advocacy organisations wrote a letter to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai urging him to drop a project known as Dragonfly as it ‘would represent an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights’

Dragonfly is a project Google wishes to undertake in China as it tries to get more users. The project entails building a censored search engine for the Great Firewall Republic.

The letter comes in the wake of revolt within Google as employees have expressed outrage over rumours that the firm is planning to launch a censored search engine in China.

The letter reads

‘Like many of Google’s own employees, we are extremely concerned by reports that Google is developing a new censored search engine app for the Chinese market. The project, codenamed “Dragonfly”, would represent an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights. The Chinese government extensively violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy; by accommodating the Chinese authorities’ repression of dissent, Google would be actively participating in those violations for millions of internet users in China.

‘Google risks becoming complicit in the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and other human rights in China,’ the letter read.

‘Google should heed the concerns raised by human rights groups and its own employees and refrain from offering censored search services in China.’

Cynthia Wong of Human Rights Watch said Google ‘has failed to explain how it will shield users from the Chinese government’s efforts to monitor and suppress dissent.’

Other organizations signing the letter include Access Now, Article 19, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights in China, International Service for Human Rights, PEN International, Privacy International and Witness.

Google pulled out of China in 2010 due to hacking and censorship on the part of the government which has had made the Government much stronger. According to Dailymail for Google to enter China its Dragonfly app will have to comply with the censorship rules.

‘The app would have to comply with China’s rigid censorship laws, which would mean restricting access to content that government officials consider unfavorable, according to the Information, which first reported the rumored project.

Search terms about human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protests will be blocked from the app.

When someone uses the search engine, banned websites won’t be included in the first page of search results, with websites like BBC and Wikipedia part of a list of banned sites.

While there is no concrete reports from the firm, some reports said the company has described the effort as exploratory.

‘We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com,’ spokesman Taj Meadows told AFP when news of Dragonfly broke early this month.

‘But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.’

The New York Times also reported that  Google declined to comment on the letter. It has said in the past that it will not comment on Dragonfly or “speculation about future plans” in an audio obtained by the news outlet. They reported that

‘Late on Thursday, employees pressed Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, and other management about Dragonfly at a weekly staff meeting. As of late Wednesday, one of the top questions on an internal software system called Dory, which lets employees vote for the queries that executives should answer at the meeting, asked whether Google had lost its ethical compass, said people who had reviewed the questions. Other questions on Dory asked directly about the Dragonfly project and specific information that may be censored by the Chinese government, such as air pollution data.

“If we were to do our mission well, we are to think seriously about how to do more in China,” Mr. Pichai said in the staff meeting, audio of which was obtained by The Times. “That said, we are not close to launching a search product in China.”

Mr. Pichai and Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google, stopped answering questions about Dragonfly after seeing their answers posted on Twitter.

You can read the full letter here

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