senior research scientist at Google quit after news of a search engine
project in China leaked to the media.
Poulson, who worked for the research and machine intelligence
department, ended his employment on Aug. 31, The
Aug. 1 story by The
Intercept about Google’s plans to build a
censored search engine in China caused an uproar at the company. Sources
leaked news of the project, which was only known by a fraction of
brought the matter up with his managers. He decided to resign by
mid-August, seeing that Google would continue its plans.
did not want to be involved in a company that would censor information
at the request of Chinese Communist officials, simply to re-enter the
to my conviction that dissent is fundamental to functioning democracies,
I am forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting
from, the erosion of protection for dissidents,” Poulson wrote in his
resignation letter, obtained by The Intercept.
First Censored Search Engine in China, 2006-2010
Google to have access to the Chinese search market again, they would
have to host servers and store user data within mainland China. Chinese
authorities would have access to that data. Poulson fears this situation
would be used to oppress political dissidents.
accused China of doing just that, when Google discovered China hacked
the email accounts of political activists on its servers before their
highly publicized 2010 pull out from China, according to reports from The
Wall Street Journal and Spiegel
our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in
exchange for access to the Chinese market as
a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating
position across the globe,” Poulson continued, in the letter, seeing how
Google’s change of heart as a move that could set a bad precedent.
is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to
leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with
their security demands.”
has not addressed questions from human rights groups, journalists, and
others about Google’s
reversal on censorship. Employees inside of Google have also
received silence from the company when seeking answers about the
implications. Some have left the company along with Poulson.
was praised when it left the Chinese market in 2010. The move was
spearheaded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. He credited the decision
to his experience of spending his early years under the Soviet Union,
and noticing the same authoritarian “earmarks” of oppression in
had operated a censored search engine in China from 2006 to 2010. An
engineer who worked on that project wrote a
letter in which he expressed regret in helping
Google in its collaboration with Chinese authorities back then, and
advised Google against going back.
Google engineer Brandon Downey criticized Google’s basic rationalization
for ever working with Chinese authorities. He described the company’s
decision like this:
China is already censoring the internet. So why don’t we at least give
people what information we can, because some is better than none?’”
responded to that rationalization like this:
has already done this once, and it ended in disaster.”
also offered an apology for being involved in Google’s first censorship
project in China.
want to say I’m sorry for helping to do this. I don’t know how much this
contributed to strengthening political support for the censorship regime
in the PRC, but it was wrong. It did nothing but benefit me and my
career, and so it fits the classic definition of morally heedless
behavior: I got things and in return it probably made some other
people’s life worse.”