After Decade-Long Absence, Google Mulls Relaunching in China

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai says the company is committed to transparency

More than 3,500 employees signed a letter protesting against the company's work with the Pentagon's surveillance drones programme. "By letting Google's search engine back into China, the Chinese government could give President Trump a political victory, earning some good will".

"We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: employees need to know what we're building".

However, eventually, Google pulled out of China completely in 2010 after several large-scale attacks on the company purportedly by the Chinese government.

The employees are demanding more transparency so they can understand the moral implications of their work, said the New York Times, which obtained a copy of the letter.

Pichai's remarks, shared with CNBC by a Google employee, come in the of wake of internal and external backlash following a report from The Intercept in early August that the company was secretly building a censored version of its search engine to launch in China.

The search engine, which would be app-based, would remove items that contain certain words or phrases and would apply to image search, suggested search features and automatic spell check. And now, it wants to just the opposite with this secret search engine project.

Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions.

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"It's quite ridiculous that in the 21st century one of the most powerful countries in the world denies its citizens access to common knowledge", one user wrote.

Former Google software engineer Priyendra Deshwal told Bloomberg, "We could see both sides of the coin. I think if we were to do our mission well, I think we have to think seriously about how we do more in China", Mr Pichai said.

Google's internal confirmation of the project comes at a time of growing concerns about censorship of selected accounts on social media platforms.

Pichai told employees: "We'll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here" on Dragonfly, according to the transcript.

Earlier this year, Google dropped "Don't be evil" from its official code of conduct.

The letter and Thursday's meeting follow the publication of an open letter in April, signed by over 1,000 employees, demanding that the company end its collaboration with the Pentagon on artificial intelligence systems created to power the United States military's drone warfare program.

According to media reports, Google will not seek another contract when the current Project Maven contract expires in 2019.

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