2 min read

Google’s mission is famously ‘Don’t be evil’, but with its latest venture – a pre-censored search engine that complies with Chinese regulations – it looks like it could be compromising on those values. And one former senior executive, Lokman Tsui, has spoken out, calling it a “stupid, stupid move.”

News of the search engine, named Project Dragonfly, was first reported at the start of August. Some information about the project was leaked, leading considerable anger from Google employees. One employee told The Intercept “our internal meme site and Google Plus are full of talk, and people are a.n.g.r.y.”

However, Tsui’s intervention is notable because of his position as ‘Head of Freedom of Expression’ for Asia and the Pacific between 2011 and 2014.

Tsui contrasts the new project with Google shutting down its previous Chinese search engine over concerns over significant cyber attacks from within the country. Speaking to the Intercept, he said “Google made a grand statement in 2010. The message was that ‘We care about human rights and we care about free expression, we are the champions of this, we have responsibility, we don’t want to self-censor any more.”

For Tsui, returning to China with a new search product has a real symbolic impact in terms of Google legitimizing and accepting the Chinese government’s record of online censorship.

What’s also important, according to Tsui, is that the situation in China has deteriorated since 2010. The move would, he says, “be a moral victory for Beijing… I can’t see a way to operate Google search in China without violating widely held international human rights standards.”

Tsui claims Google will lose employees over China issue

Tsui believes that Google could lose employees over the move. In compromising its core principles – of which “don’t be evil” is just one – it could lose “the hearts and minds of people working for it.”

However, it’s not just Google employees – past and present – who are concerned about Google’s project. A number of U.S. senators have raised concerns, along with human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders. Google’s move could, these groups argue, lead to bigger issues than just censorship. This is because Google’s servers would be located on the Chinese mainland, making them potentially accessible to the Chinese government, which could use data from servers to closely monitor activities of anyone who voices criticism.

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Co-editor of the Packt Hub. Interested in politics, tech culture, and how software and business are changing each other.


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