What is Dragonfly?
According to Cyber Security Insider:
“Internet Juggernaut Google is all set to release an exclusive search engine for that surfing web from China and sources add that the browser may be exclusive to Android operating system users.
Codenamed as “Dragonfly” the search engine is said to be in lines with the censorship guidelines drafted by the People’s Republic of China and is said to go live from the Chinese new year which happens to be in Feb next year.
But the announcement of the latest development by the Alphabet Inc’s subsidiary hasn’t gone well with the populace of China. Many politicians, human rights activists, Google users and even some of the employees of the company have raised their voice against this development as it allows China to suppress the truth.”
This has Set off Alarms in the Tech Industry
The new search app would block search terms like human rights and religion. Hundreds of Google employees have written to the company to protest against plans to launch a “censored search engine” in China. They said the project raised “urgent moral and ethical questions” and urged the firm to be more transparent.
“Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work,” they added. Google, which has never spoken publicly about the plans, declined to comment.
According to the Verge article by Sam Byford, Google had this statement:
“Our stated mission is to organize the world’s information,” Pichai added. “China is one-fifth of the world’s population. I think if we were to do our mission well, I think we have to think seriously about how we do more in China. I genuinely do believe we have a positive impact when we engage around the world and I don’t see any reason why that would be different in China.”
Brin said that the Dragonfly project only came to his attention because of the “kerfuffle” over it. “Googlers should feel broadly proud of their work, not feel that it compromises their principles,” he added, before changing the topic after becoming aware that his and Pichai’s comments were leaking.
The firm, which is owned by Alphabet, quit China eight years ago in protest at the country’s censorship laws and alleged government hacks. However, reports last month claimed it had been secretively working on a new Chinese search service, referred to internally as Dragonfly. The platform, which still requires Chinese government approval, would block certain websites and search terms like human rights and religion.
This has angered some employees who fear they have been unwittingly working on technology that will help China suppress free expression.
In their letter, which was shared with various media organizations, they also argue it would violate the “don’t be evil” clause in Google’s code of conduct.
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” the letter said.
It is not the first time Google employees have spoken out against the company’s decisions. In April, thousands of staff criticised its work on a US military programme developing artificial intelligence for drones. Google has since ended its AI contract with the Pentagon.
China has the world’s largest internet audience but US tech firms have struggled to take off in China due to content restrictions and blockages. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram are all banned, although Google still has three offices in the country.
Portions of this report were contributed by Public Tech News.