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Report: Not All Google Employees Oppose the Company's China Plan

By NexChange
Financial Services

A day after dozens of Google employees signed their names to an open letter demanding the company drop its plan to build a censored search engine in China, TechCrunch is reporting that a letter signed by about 500 employees supporting the plan to re-enter China – code-named Project Dragonfly – “has been in circulation for a number of weeks.”

TechCrunch says it acquired the letter from “a source within Google” and while the letter has reportedly collected hundreds of signatures, the letter provided to TechCrunch is unsigned. By comparison, the open letter opposing Project Dragonfly was signed and posted to Medium.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter supporting the China project:

We understand that Googlers are diverse: Googlers vary in their backgrounds and values, and hence, may focus on different aspects of Dragonfly and have different expectations. Nonetheless, we believe that continuing work on Dragonfly is needed, and will be helpful to all Googlers regardless of their backgrounds and expectations.

Dragonfly is well aligned with Google’s mission. China has the largest number of Internet users of all countries in the world, and yet, most of Google’s services are unavailable in China. This situation heavily contradicts our mission, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. While there are some prior success, Google should keep the effort in finding out how to bring more of our products and services, including Search, to the Chinese users.

The letter – you can read the full version via TechCrunch here – acknowledges that “Dragonfly still faces many difficulties and uncertainties,” and that if Google is “not careful enough, the project can end up doing more harm than good.” However, the letter concludes that the “many difficulties and uncertainties” Google faces in China “can only be resolved by continuing efforts.”

TechCrunch‘s Jon Russell and Taylor Hatmaker report that former Google employees based in Asia have said “they don’t believe Google’s management grasps the significance of re-entry into China.” Russell and Hatmaker also note that Google has roughly 85,000 employees all over the globe, so a difference of opinion among the workforce is not surprising.

But when it comes to re-entering China with a censored search engine, “it is difficult to present a credible argument that the move is anything but financially-driven,” Russell and Hatmaker argue.

And again, Google is an absolutely massive company. Somewhere else, 500 people might be a statistically significant number but at Google the letter represents barely half of one percent of the company. The same criticism can be leveraged at other letters of this kind that collect signatures and attract attention to issues — it’s important to remember that they don’t necessarily represent prevailing sentiment.

It should also be noted that Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who recently doubled down on the company’s plans to re-enter China, is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 5. While the hearing before Congress is reportedly in response to Republicans’ claims that Google has an anti-conservative bias, it seems likely that Pichai will be grilled about the company’s plans to re-enter China since it has received criticisms from both Republicans and Democrats.

Google employees first revolted in August when The Intercept reported on the controversial Dragonfly project. A group of employees wrote a letter shortly after the story broke, taking Google’s leadership to task for not keeping them informed on its plans, noting that “the decision to build Project Dragonfly was made in secret” and that most employees only learned about it through news reports.

The open letter published this week appeared to be a joint effort by Google employees and Amnesty International to try and pressure Google into abandoning the Dragonfly project. The human rights organization penned its own open letter to Google, warning that the strategy “could irreparably damage internet users’ trust in the tech company.”

Photo: Getty iStock

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