Internal strife forces Sundar Pichai to rethink Google’s re-entry to China

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The project is for a search engine created to comply with the Chinese government's censorship laws.

Before the staff meeting, employees called for more "transparency, oversight and accountability" - according to an internal petition.

The report states that about 1,400 employees have signed the letter (PDF) and it's being circulated on the company's communication channels.

Google, which has never spoken publicly about the plans, declined to comment.

Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai told employees at a meeting that plans to re-enter China with a search engine are "exploratory" and in "early stages", addressing a topic that has exploded with controversy.

The employees are reportedly anxious about kowtowing to China by implementing the government's requests for censorship.

In a letter to Pichai earlier this month, a bipartisan group of six US senators called Google's potential return to China "deeply troubling", noting the country's repressive surveillance apparatus, human rights abuses and its alleged record of taking intellectual property from foreign technology companies.

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"Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work".

After workers expressed outrage at their unbeknownst participation in supporting the American war machine, Google leadership pulled the plug on that program earlier this year and implemented a new set of company-wide guidelines covering its development of A.I. technology.

Google's search engine is now blocked in China due to tight controls over speech.

In audio recording of a meeting with employees obtained by The New York Times, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company was "not close to launching a search product in China". China has the world's largest internet audience but has frustrated US tech giants with content restrictions or outright blockages of services including Facebook and Instagram.

But according to two sources, when the meeting finally ended, it didn't go unnoticed that many details regarding Google's plans for China were still unknown. But recently, the tech giant has made inroads in the Chinese market.

The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google.

They said the project raised "urgent moral and ethical questions" and urged the firm to be more transparent.

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