SAN FRANCISCO: More than 200 engineers, designers and managers at Alphabet Inc’s Google demanded in an open letter on Tuesday that the company end development of a censored search engine for Chinese users, escalating earlier protests against the secretive project.
Google has described the search app, known as Project Dragonfly, as an experiment not close to launching. But as details of it have leaked since August, current and former employees, human rights activists and US lawmakers have criticised Google for not taking a harder line against the Chinese government’s policy that politically sensitive results be blocked.
Human rights group Amnesty International also launched a public petition on Tuesday calling on Google to cancel Dragonfly. The organisation said it would encourage Google workers to sign the petition by targeting them on LinkedIn and protesting outside Google offices.
Google declined to comment on the employees’ letter on Tuesday as Alphabet shares fell 0.35 per cent to $1,052.28.
Google has long sought to have a bigger presence in China, the world’s largest internet market. It needs government approval to compete with the country’s dominant homegrown internet services.
An official at China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, who was unauthorised to speak publicly, told Reuters on Tuesday there was “no indication” from Google that it had adjusted earlier plans to eventually launch the search app. However, the official described a 2019 release as “unrealistic” without elaborating.