In 2010, Google, the largest search engine in the world, made a promise not to support China’s censorship of the internet. But in 2018 it was revealed that Google was preparing to break its promise.
Google started working on a secretive program to re-launch its search engine in China code-named “Google Dragonfly”. People using Google in China would be blocked from accessing banned websites like Wikipedia and Facebook. Content from search terms like ‘human rights’ would be banned. The Chinese government would also be able to spy on Google’s users – and this is a government that routinely sends people to prison for simply sharing their views online.
To raise attention about the issue, Amnesty produced a couple of spoof videos that were widely circulated online. To increase pressure on Google to “drop Dragonfly”, we launched a global petition and Amnesty volunteers held demonstrations outside of Google’s offices around the world – including in Toronto.
Even many of Google’s employees were appalled by the Google Dragonfly project and spoke out against it.
Google has just reported that it has terminated its plans to launch Project Dragonfly. Its public walk-back on this disastrous project is good news and is in no small part thanks to the campaigning of hundreds of Google employees, 70+ human rights organisations and thousands of people around the world who demanded the company respect human rights.
Google must now go one step further and commit to never aid China’s large-scale censorship and surveillance.