USA: Lawmakers must not let Google off the hook over Dragonfly

US lawmakers must press Google CEO Sundar Pichai on the company’s disturbing plans for a censored search app in China, Amnesty International said ahead of Pichai’s appearance before Congress tomorrow.

Pichai is due to testify in Congress over allegations of political bias in Google’s search algorithm. The tech giant also faces questions over its prototype search engine for the Chinese market codenamed Project Dragonfly which would blacklist search terms like “human rights” and facilitate Chinese authorities in targeting dissidents online.  

Sundar Pichai has some serious questions to answer tomorrow. How can Google square Project Dragonfly with its own human rights commitments? Does Google care more about profits than people?
Joe Westby, Technology and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.

“Sundar Pichai has some serious questions to answer tomorrow. How can Google square Project Dragonfly with its own human rights commitments? Does Google care more about profits than people? Will Google listen to the outcry of protest from its own workforce over its China plans?” said Joe Westby, Technology and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.

“This is a crucial moment for internet freedom. We call on Congress to demand clarity from Sundar Pichai and urge him to drop Project Dragonfly.”

On 26 November Amnesty International organized a day of worldwide protests against the plans, and hundreds of Google staff signed an open letter joining Amnesty’s call to drop Dragonfly.

Amnesty also released a new satirical video today showing a fake Google employee objecting to criticism from “Google staff, Amnesty International and a whole bunch of other human rights organizations”. It is the sequel to Amnesty’s fake job ad for Project Dragonfly which was used to alert Google staff to the #DropDragonfly campaign through LinkedIn advertising.

There is a real risk that Google would directly assist the Chinese government in arresting or imprisoning people simply for expressing their views online

Amnesty International also published an open letter signed by 61 NGOs and 11 individuals, including Edward Snowden.

Part of the letter reads:

“Facilitating Chinese authorities’ access to personal data, as described in media reports, would be particularly reckless. If such features were launched, there is a real risk that Google would directly assist the Chinese government in arresting or imprisoning people simply for expressing their views online, making the company complicit in human rights violations.”

Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager for Amnesty International USA, will be in attendance at the hearing and available for interviews.