Google Chief Executive Officer Pichai called a phony for safeguarding action right into Chi …
Facebook’s former security chief and a Google software engineer are among critics pushing back on Google CEO Sundar Pichai, after he publicly defended his company’s plan to launch a censored search engine in China, code-named “Project Dragonfly.”
Google has faced attacks on multiple fronts after its under-construction search engine for China was exposed in an August media report alleging the browser would block information about the Chinese government’s political opponents, democracy, human rights, free speech, and anything unfavorable to the regime.
Pichai, in an interview this week with the New York Times, said he was “committed to serving users in China” and compared censorship there to the “right to be forgotten” law in the European Union, which can force Google to delete data it holds on people who don’t want the information showing up in search results.
Former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos took to Twitter to call Pichai a liar lacking a moral compass.
“Tech companies constantly walk a difficult path between complying with local law and protecting human rights,” Stamos tweeted Thursday.
“For Sundar to compare the ‘right to be forgotten’ (which I agree is problematic) with censorship in China is, at best, amoral and mendacious.”
Stamos added, “China’s censorship regime is a tool to maintain the absolute control of the party-state and is in no way comparable” to the right to be forgotten law.
Google and Pichai did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stamos, now a Stanford University professor, quit Facebook this summer, with the New York Times reporting that he left the Menlo Park social media giant over clashes with colleagues over how to respond to nation states’ manipulation of the company’s platform.
Pichai also faced rebellion from within over the right-to-be-forgotten (RTBF) comparison.
“It is extremely bad that Sundar appears to either think that RTBF is morally equivalent to government surveillance & censorship, or that he appears to think that nobody will notice this analogy is extremely inaccurate,” staff software engineer Colin McMillen tweeted Friday. McMillen emphasized to this news organization that he was not speaking on behalf of Google.
McMillen continued in another tweet, “the RTBF regulation was passed by democratically-elected representatives, as opposed to an authoritarian state.”
McMillen added, “It is very unlikely that the EU will ever attempt to trawl through records of past search queries to retroactively look for (and potentially imprison) people who searched for RTBF-covered queries. China, meanwhile, will almost certainly do so.”
Pichai, in the New York Times interview, did not confirm The Intercept’s report that Google was building a censored search engine for China.
“It’s not even clear to me that search in China is the product we need to do today,” Pichai said.
A Google executive in September told a U.S. Senate committee that Project Dragonfly existed, but that the company was “not close to launching a product in China,” The Intercept reported.
Google had at one time refused to offer a search engine in China because of the Chinese government’s censorship requirements, but in 2006 it entered the Chinese market with a censored search engine. That led the Mountain View search and digital advertising giant to be labeled “evil’s accomplice” and a “functionary of the Chinese government” in a Congressional hearing. The firm yanked the search service in 2010, citing apparent surveillance of human-rights activists’ Gmail accounts and attempts to limit free speech online in China.