Google Is Called Out As An Adversary To Freedom Of Speech By Multiple International Organizations

 

Download the four page document challenging Google as an adversary to free speech: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4792329-Google-Dragonfly-Open-Letter.html

If the above link is “disappeared”, Indomitus.US has one here for you: Google-Dragonfly-Open-Letter


Leading human rights groups are calling on Google to cancel its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, which they said would violate the freedom of expression and privacy rights of millions of internet users in the country.

A coalition of 14 organizations — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Access Now, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, PEN International, and Human Rights in China — issued the demand Tuesday in an open letter addressed to the internet giant’s CEO, Sundar Pichai. The groups said the censored search engine represents “an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights” and could result in the company “directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations.”

The letter is the latest major development in an ongoing backlash over the censored search platform, code-named Dragonfly, which was first revealed by The Intercept earlier this month. 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. It would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to confidential Google documents.

Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but ceased operating the service in the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems. The open letter released Tuesday asks Google to reaffirm the commitment it made in 2010 to no longer provide censored search in China.

“It is difficult not to conclude that Google is now willing to compromise its principles.”

The letter states: “If Google’s position has indeed changed, then this must be stated publicly, together with a clear explanation of how Google considers it can square such a decision with its responsibilities under international human rights standards and its own corporate values. Without these clarifications, it is difficult not to conclude that Google is now willing to compromise its principles to gain access to the Chinese market.”

The letter calls on Google to explain the steps it has taken to safeguard against human rights violations that could occur as a result of Dragonfly and raises concerns that the company will be “enlisted in surveillance abuses” because “users’ data would be much more vulnerable to [Chinese] government access.” Moreover, the letter said Google should guarantee protections for whistleblowers who speak out when they believe the company is not living up to its commitments on human rights. The whistleblowers “have been crucial in bringing ethical concerns over Google’s operations to public attention,” the letter states. “The protection of whistleblowers who disclose information that is clearly in the public interest is grounded in the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”

Google has not yet issued any public statement about the China censorship, saying only that it will not address “speculation about future plans.” After four weeks of sustained reporting on Dragonfly, Google has not issued a single response to The Intercept and it has refused to answer dozens of questions from reporters on the issue. The company’s press office did not reply to a request for comment on this story.

It is not only journalists, however, who Google has ignored in the wake of the revelations. Amnesty International researchers told The Intercept they set up a phone call with the company to discuss concerns about Dragonfly, but they were stonewalled by members of Google’s human rights policy team, who said they would not talk about “leaks” of information related to the Chinese censorship. The open letter slams Google’s lack of public engagement on the matter, stating that the company’s “refusal to respond substantively to concerns over its reported plans for a Chinese search service falls short of the company’s purported commitment to accountability and transparency.”

“This is a world none of us have ever lived in before.”

Google is a member of the Global Network Initiative, or GNI, a digital rights organization that works with a coalition of companies, human rights groups, and academics. All members of the GNI agree to implement a set of principles on freedom of expression and privacy, which appear to prohibit complicity in the sort of broad censorship that is widespread in China. The principles state that member companies must “respect and work to protect the freedom of expression rights of users” when they are confronted with government demands to “remove content or otherwise limit access to communications, ideas and information in a manner inconsistent with internationally recognized laws and standards.”

Following the revelations about Dragonfly, sources said, members of the GNI’s board of directors – which includes representatives from Human Rights Watch, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Committee to Protect Journalists – confronted Google representatives in a conference call about its censorship plans. But the Google officials were not responsive to the board’s concerns or forthcoming with information about Dragonfly, which caused frustration and anger within the GNI.

Every two years, members of the GNI are assessed for compliance with the group’s principles. One source said that Google’s conduct is due to be reviewed this year, and it is likely that its Chinese censorship plans will be closely scrutinized through that process. If the company is found to have violated the GNI’s principles its status as a member of the organization could potentially be revoked.

Inside Google, the company’s intense secrecy on Dragonfly has exacerbated tensions between employees and managers. Rank-and-file staff have circulated a letter saying that the project represents a moral and ethical crisis, and they have told bosses that they “urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes.”

Pichai, Google’s CEO, told employees during a meeting on August 16 that he would “be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record” and portrayed Dragonfly as an “exploratory” project. However, documents seen by The Intercept show that the project has been in development since early 2017, and the infrastructure to launch it has already been built. Last month, Google’s search engine chief Ben Gomes told employees working on Dragonfly that they should have the censored search engine ready to be “brought off the shelf and quickly deployed.”

Gomes informed the employees working on Dragonfly that the company was aiming to release the censored search platform within six to nine months, but that the schedule could change suddenly due to an ongoing U.S. trade war with China, which had slowed down Google’s negotiations with officials in Beijing, whose approval Google needs to launch the search engine. Sources said Gomes joked about the unpredictability of President Donald Trump while discussing the potential date the company would be able to roll out the censored search.

“This is a world none of us have ever lived in before,” Gomes said, according to the sources. “We need to be focused on what we want to enable, and then when the opening happens, we are ready for it.”

30 Replies to “Google Is Called Out As An Adversary To Freedom Of Speech By Multiple International Organizations”

  1. Mike this is off-topic. Wondering why you, David M or Greg S. are not talking about Google literally gutting the “Categories” on Google+ Local pages. It happened Aug 28th. I know there was category-spamming by some local businesses … but to take an axe to the problem to all +Local pages??? Surprised no one is talking about it!

  2. Google is terribly dishonest. They change their search algo simply to drive former Page 1 links to the back, all so that the former Page 1 link owners have to buy Google Ads, thus steadily driving up the Google stock price. RICO statutes might apply, as well as fraud by wire. Google’s search results are not nearly as precise and “true” (unbiased) as they were a few years ago.

  3. For web-based steering, an alternative would be a couple of Phidgets-controlled servos via one of their language interfaces, Java or Python being the most obvious. They used to support Perl, but I didn’t put enough work into a CGI to get it working remotely.

  4. @penielIf there are wrong categories then you need to assume that they have likely been there all along and you didn’t notice them. 1)be sure that you have 5 categories in the dashboard2)go into MapMaker and make sure that the 5 categories there match what you have in the dashboard. If not make them match. 3)search the Internet for your phone number and the bad categories and find out where google got them. Correct as appropriate. And then wait. If they are not corrected in 6 weeks report via the “edit this business”.

  5. @Marc,“say reviewing from Los Angeles, California for a business with an area in the Twin Cities area. it would be a red flag that its a bogus review”That looks exactly like a fiverr review account! LOLI used to check the google review, review history and I’m telling you those folks are rich! I saw one review who reviewed his plumber in Dallas TX and then later that morning show how managed to get up to New York and review his kitchen remodeler THEN flew back to California to inspect and rate his roofing contractor! Busy guy aye?

  6. Hellp, I wish to complain about this satellite that I launched not half a century ago from this very space center.Oh yes, the, uh, the Transit 5B-5…What’s,uh…What’s wrong with it?I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!No, no, ‘e’s uh,…he’s resting.Look, matey, I know a dead satellite when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.No no he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’! Remarkable satellite, the Transit 5B-5, idn’it, ay? Beautiful solar panels!The solar panels don’t enter into it. It’s stone dead.Nononono, no, no! ‘E’s resting!All right then, if he’s restin’, I’ll wake him up! ‘Ello, Mister satalite! I’ve got a lovely fresh sunbeam for you if you transmit!…That was fun, I kinda want to dub the video now.

  7. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the reason that GMail comes up first for a search on mail is because a lot of people who are Google users get to their mail by typing the word mail into a Google search box and then selecting GMail as the result they wanted.

  8. Personally, I’m very discouraged and depressed about GMB spam. I’ve been reporting local spammers for weeks on Google Maps and my edits are still pending. I’ve tried GMB forums and nothing happened too. I still don’t have an idea how to fight this and I really think we need to push this as a team to Google. Thanks, Nick.

  9. i’m an upper-middle class white guy, but thanks for your concern. i’m also not ignorant or uneducated about systemic and institutionalized racism, something austin proehl has never and will never have to face in his privileged life. he’s getting his shot because of his dad. if you think an impoverished inner-city kid would’ve had the same opportunity, you’re downright foolish.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++What is wrong with using your connections to get an opportunity to prove yourself worthy of an NFL job? NFL teams don’t waste draft picks; they choose players who fill a need and they think can make the team. Camp fodder are typically UDFAs and, if the Bills do not think he has the game, they would have signed him as one rather than drafting him.His dad merely opened a door. It is up to Austin to walk through it.

  10. @AlWhile it is understandable that this might occur, it is a machine after all, there are good reasons to critique Google in this situation.Critique is not hate. If you knew me you would know that I really do want Google to do better and be better. You may not like my tone but at my age I have earned the privilege of being cranky once in a while. While a user could dig deeper and ferret out the error, that is very unlikely to happen. The review snippet is showing on the front page of Google for a brand search. That would require a second click to analyze all of the reviews, read through them and find the one that this references.Google in presenting this information on the front page for a business is attempting to be accurate and has a responsibility to do so. They are not perfect so to their credit they have added support staff to fix these sorts of issues. The answer from support was from a human. And proves that humans can be even dumber than a machine. In this case, it should have been obvious to them that the machine had in fact not been able to parse this double negative well and should have taken the initiative to act.Dan is more persistent than most, he was lucky in that he had access to the contact form and was able after the above stupid response to get Google to reconsider. Most small businesses do not have that luxury. If Google is going to profit by using SMB data and the business is to develop ads and marketing around that effort, then Google should take the time to fix these sorts of errors in a timely fashion with no bull shit.

  11. Maybe I’m missing something but your analysis looks incomplete.Yahoo results show yahoo services first in every search but they are not biased, google is?Also, why should results for “mail” be a “stretch”? According to most web analyzers, it is the third largest email service in world but more importantly the one with most growth rate (approx 25 last year) while the other top two are losing users (approx 5 and 15 for hotmail and yahoo respectively) which would mean that gmail is being talked about more on the web.Did you factor in these things?

  12. As soon as Google sees a real competitor on the horizon, they’re going to move to solve all those issues.Lack of real competitors for them is creating this childish thinking culture. They’ve been feeling invincible so far.Until someone else comes along to create a shadow on their profits. That will happen, sooner or later.

  13. In 2005’s film starring George Clooney “Syriana”, there is a scene in which some top oil company executives are talking about different and rather sordid strategies they can implement to gain control of an oil pipeline, and that way, the entire economy of a producer country. At the end of the dialogue, one of them, to answer his interlocutor, who questions those strategies, says: ‘ Hey! We are talking about oil, aren’t we? ‘So basically, if any of us, ordinary people with average intelligence, as you say, can notice and believe G’s strategy in local aspect works that way, no doubt it’s something they, dedicated in body and soul to their business, had already noticed. In fact, they’ve probably even measured the real impact of the strategy in question, and it’s true that crap in local / GMB side generates more revenues from advertising through businesses that give up the fight and simply decide to advertise more.No doubt is Machiavellian … but probably, it’s very possible.

  14. All this goes to show that words and meanings matter. It’s a bit like having to understand and define the word ‘evil’ in context to Google’s view. Their long-standing motto of “Don’t Be Evil” can be torn apart if you don’t know what they determine to be evil or not. This is a good example of how things go wrong when there’s a lack of true and fair competition in a marketplace.

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