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Google faces mutiny over leaked China plans

Google Crosshairs

Google is reportedly developing a censored version of its search engine especially for China but some of its employees aren’t happy about it.

The Chinese version of Google is apparently code-named Dragonfly and was first revealed by The Intercept at the start of this month. It apparently resulted in a fair big of internal hand-wringing within Google, which culminated in a letter calling for greater transparency on ethical issues being circulated within the company and signed by hundreds of employees.

The NYT and BuzzFeed were among the publications to get a leaked copy of the letter. “To make ethical choices, Googlers need to know what we’re building,” commenced the letter “Right now we don’t. So we, the undersigned, are calling for a Code Yellow on Ethics & Transparency at Google.”

Here’s the footnote explaining what a Code Yellow is: “A Code Yellow is a standardized process in Engineering for addressing new or long-simmering business-critical problems that span multiple groups. A Code Yellow includes: an executive responsible for the process; an overall owner; a clear list of objectives to be resolved before closing the Code Yellow; and weekly (or more frequent) updates to any interested parties.

Essentially the people who wrote the letter seem to be worried about the lack of consultation with the rank and file within Google on significant ethical decisions such as facilitating state censorship or working with the military. As a company Google prides itself on its ‘liberal’ politics and right-on ethics, so it can hardly be surprised that its employees have a bit of a moral panic every now and then.

Apparently the matter was addressed at an all-hands staff meeting yesterday, which was inevitably leaked to the likes of Bloomberg and Buzzfeed, but execs pulled the plug on the discussion when the leaking quickly became apparent. They got as far as saying Dragonfly isn’t set in stone yet before throwing in the towel.

Google has a delicate line to walk here. It made its corporate politics clear when it sacked engineer James Damore for internally discussing the matter of trends in job type preference according to sex after that publication became public. Now its employees are leaking internal discussions expressing concerns over the company’s ethics. While it’s bot viable for it t0 change corporate strategy every time someone has a moan, it must be seen to be treating these concerns with due gravity.


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