A group of leading human rights organizations are calling on Google to end its plan to develop a censored version of its search engine for the Chinese government.

In a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the 14 groups, which include Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch, urge the tech company to call of the controversial project codenamed “Dragonfly.”

“Like many of Google’s own employees, we are extremely concerned by reports that Google is developing a new censored search engine app for the Chinese market,” the letter begins. “The Chinese government extensively violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy; by accomodating the Chinese authorities’ repression of dissent, Google would be actively participating in those violations for millions of internet users in China.”

The letter goes on to support “the brave efforts of Google employees” who leaked news of the plan, while accusing the company leadership of “an alarming capitulation” on human rights.

“The Chinese government runs one of the world’s most repressive internet censorship and surveillance regimes,” the letter adds. “Human rights defenders and journalists are routinely arrested and imprisoned solely for expressing their views online.”

According to The Intercept, who first revealed the existence of Dragonfly earlier this month, Google’s own documents show how the project would give the Chinese government unprecedented power over its citizenry.

“The censored search engine would remove content that China’s ruling Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest,” Ryan Gallagher writes. “It would ‘blacklist sensitive queries’ so that ‘no results will be shown’ at all when people enter certain words or phrases…”

While Google did launch a censored search engine for China back in 2006, the project ended in 2010 after the company said the Chinese government not only attempted to limit free speech but tried to hack Google’s computer systems as well.


“We are calling on Google to publicly commit to protect whistle-blowers in the company and to take immediate steps to address the concerns employees have raised about Project Dragonfly,” the letter continues. “As it stands, Google risks becoming complicit in the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and other human rights in China. Google should heed the concerns raised by human rights groups and its own employees and refrain from offering censroed search services in China.”

Google has thus far declined to publicly comment on Project Dragonfly, refusing to remark on “speculation about future plans.”


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