Almost 50,000 people join Tibet groups and corporate campaigners in demanding Google immediately drop “Project Dragonfly’, the censored China search engine

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Americas & Asia

December 10, 2018

Just days after the launch of a global petition, Tibet groups and international consumer group SumOfUs, have already secured nearly 50,000 signatures backing their calls that Google immediately drop ‘Project Dragonfly’, the censored search engine  for the Chinese government.

Global pressure has been mounting on Google since leaked documents first showed the company is developing an app which would block internet users in China from searching for information about human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government. Searches for ‘sensitive’ words, such as human rights, Tibet, Dalai Lama and Tiananmen Square would be heavily restricted in a bid to appease the Chinese government’s ruthless crackdown on freedom of expression online. The app would also facilitate Chinese state surveillance by linking users’ search history with their telephone numbers.

The decision to launch a global petition comes after a coalition of 170 Tibet Groups failed to receive any response or acknowledgment of a letter they sent to Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, over four months ago, alerting him of the serious human rights consequences of the project, the deteriorating human rights situation for those under Chinese rule and urging him to immediately cancel the project.

The human rights situation in China has drastically deteriorated since Google withdrew from the country in 2010, citing censorship concerns.  One million Uyghurs are currently being detained in internment camps where torture is rampant and Tibet has since become one of the most closed and repressive places on earth, according to freedom and democracy watchdog Freedom House. Tibetans have been arrested and imprisoned for “crimes” such as sharing information about the situation in Tibet with the outside world, flying the Tibetan national flag or simply displaying a picture of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns at Tibet Society UK said:

“It is utterly shameful that Google’s directors are doing China’s dirty work. The tech giant should be connecting the world through the sharing of information, not facilitating human rights abuses by a repressive government determined to crush all forms of peaceful online dissent. Google’s directors must urgently take heed of calls from employees and tens of thousands of global citizens demanding that they immediately halt project dragonfly. If they don’t, Google risks irreversible damage to its reputation.”

John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Free Tibet said:

“Google were widely celebrated when they withdrew from China in 2010, and the company clearly stated that it did not ‘want to engage in political censorship’. Yet in recent years, the human rights situation in China has gone further downhill and online censorship has shot up. This is the China that Google’s CEO wants to return to. The muddled thinking behind Project Dragonfly can surely only be explained by a desire for new markets and new money. But at what cost? By searching for profits while collaborating in censorship, Google is betraying its users, its staff and its reputation. The company must change course and drop Dragonfly immediately”.

Mandie McKeown, Campaign Coordinator at International Tibet Network said:

“Google’s former motto, ‘Don’t Be Evil’, is looking more and more like a distant memory. The company that withdrew from China and stood up to censorship eight years ago is now preparing to sell out millions of people, from persecuted Tibetans and Uyghurs to Chinese people seeking democracy and human rights. To avoid betraying these people, its staff, its users and its principles, Google must cancel Project Dragonfly and reaffirm its commitment to an open internet.“

Sondhya Gupta, Campaigner at SumOfUs, said:

“Google is letting us down. Instead of living up to its early promise to be a democratising force, it is colluding with repressive regimes, censoring the very people for whom the unfettered flow of information offered most progress. Google continues to collect and profit from the data of its millions of users, so today its consumers are joining together with Google employees, shareholders and those communities most impacted by the company’s belief that technology is neutral, to hold it to account. Project dragonfly would normalise tech giants’ complicity in human rights abuses: Google must cancel it immediately."

On Monday 10 December 2018, Tibet Groups and International consumer group SumOfUs held two joint press conferences to mark Human Rights Day and the launch a wider global campaign “Google: Don’t Mess with Our Rights”.  Tibetan, Uyghur and Chinese rights groups joined digital tech and ethical consumer specialists – including former Google employee and Project Dragonfly whistleblower Jack Poulson – to oppose and discuss Google’s development of Project Dragonfly.

At the press conference, Jack Poulson told Google CEO, Sundar Pichai:

“Sundar, more than 700 of your current employees have now risked their careers by publicly standing in opposition to Dragonfly. It is time to uphold your own company's principles and publicly end this regressive experiment. ”