Activists criticise Google plans to develop censored search in China

Google intends to set up a search app codenamed ‘Dragonfly’ to comply with China’s strict censorship rules.

Google intends to set up a search app codenamed ‘Dragonfly’ to comply with China’s strict censorship rules. Photographer unknown

Tibet Sun Online News

ON THE WEB, 23 August 2018

A coalition of 170 Tibet support groups from around the world has demanded that Google immediately drop its plans to develop a censored search app in China. They also demand that Google put into place comprehensive measures to ensure the company does not continue to put profits before ethics.

The China search engine project details were leaked by The Intercept, which reported that Google is planning a project codenamed ‘Dragonfly’ which will comply with China’s strict censorship rules, in an attempt to appease the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This will lead to the tech giant censoring content pertaining to human rights, Tibet, Tiananmen, democracy, and the Dalai Lama, among much more.

It is not clear in The Intercept story if Google will eventually launch a desktop version of its censored China search platform, nor whether Google search will be available, censored or uncensored, directly through a Web browser.

The anonymous source of the leak with knowledge of the project, presumably someone within Google, stated that they feared “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.”

Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with human rights group Amnesty International, told The Intercept that Google’s actions would “set a terrible precedent for many other companies who are still trying to do business in China while maintaining the principles of not succumbing to China’s censorship.”

In a letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the rights groups, which included Free Tibet, Tibet Society, and other member groups of International Tibet Network, expressed their deep concern over the human rights implications of Google’s censorship plans.

The signatories point out that Google’s public image is one of inclusiveness and accessibility, which was emphasized by the company’s withdrawal from China in 2010. At that time Google took a principled approach and refused to comply with China’s demands that it self-censor its content.

In contrast, the letter continued, “If Google were to proceed with launching this app in China, it would constitute a dramatic shift in policy and a complete turn-around from past positions taken by the company concerning freedom of speech, human rights, extreme censorship, and cyber-security.”

The human rights situation in China and Tibet has seriously deteriorated, and today the Chinese government runs one of the most repressive internet censorship regimes in the world. Extensive monitoring of the Internet has resulted in hundreds of people being arrested and imprisoned for discussing democracy and human rights online.

The strict Internet censorship imposed by the CCP inside Tibet hides from the outside world the large-scale human rights abuses committed against the Tibetan people. According to conservative estimates, there are at least 2,000 political prisoners in Tibet.

This leak about Google’s plans comes amid growing public concern over the ability of tech companies to undermine the rights and freedoms of people around the world.

Neither Google nor China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have responded to multiple requests from The Intercept for comment on the leak.

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