Jaeheon Shim
Hi! I'm Jaeheon Shim, a computer programmer and technology enthusiast. Here on Learn The Technology, I write about technology and the effect it is having on our modern world. I write about a broad range of topics, ranging from 3D Printing to Cybersecurity.

The Great Firewall: Google Employees Demand Transparency After Discovering Secret Censorship Project

We all know that China has had issues with censorship and internet freedom in the past. 8 years ago, Google withdrew their services from China after disputes over internet censorship and freedom. Now, after almost a decade, it has been announced that Google is working on a new search engine for its users in Beijing. This new search engine will not be like the search engine you and me use today; it will filter and remove content that is restricted to the citizens of China by the government. In fact, this news was announced at the beginning of this month. This is an example of how tech giants such as Google are changing their services to be “compatible” with China and its government. It seems that these tech companies no longer really care about free speech, they are just trying to make more money. How can Google make money by returning to China you ask? The answer is simple.

How Search Engine Companies Make Money And Control The Marketgoogle adwords

To understand how Google makes money, you first need to realize the influence Google has on the decisions that consumers make.

When you buy something online, such as a new computer, you often perform a Google search for it, right? If you do a Google search such as “Best computers of 2018”, Google gives you thousands of results you might like. And be honest: you’re more likely to click on a link at the top of the search results page rather than a link on the second page, right? But how does Google determine which brands make it to the top search result when you submit your Google search? While SEO and other factors regarding site ranking come in, the website at the top probably paid its way to get a spot there. Without knowing it, you have been manipulated into buying a specific brand or product.

Fig. 1 The “Sponsored” text at the upper right corner indicates that the list of laptops is actually an ad in reality. This search result was right below the search bar (At the top) of my search results, so I am certain that these websites paid Google to promote their brand. So while it seems like there are no ads at all on Google, there actually are.

This method of advertising might be more effective rather than, placing picture ads on a website for many reasons. One, the ad displayed is more likely to be relevant to what the consumer is searching for because in Google’s case the ad comes directly from the search query. Also, since most customers use Google as a search engine, they are more likely to buy from advertisements seamlessly fitted into Google’s interface rather than advertisements from random websites. And this is why paying for ads on Google is significantly more expensive than normal text ads. But once companies get a taste of the reach potential from using Google Ads(Previously known as Google Adwords), they don’t give up the opportunity to be first on one of the most, if not the most, visited websites of all time.

Since Google controls all of this, they can raise ad prices at their own discretion. And as Google has little to no competition in terms of search engine, they practically own the market. Google controls what you search and eventually. In a way, Google is the gate-keeper of the internet. It is dangerous to not know what is going on behind the scenes, because soon Google may evolve to be the single biggest company in the universe. This is why competition is good for both consumers and producers alike.

Fig. 1

Why Is Google Returning To China?

It is clear that Google is no longer the honest and good company it used to be. I think that the sole reason Google is returning to China is to benefit from the huge population. With approximately 1.34 billion residents, Google would benefit hugely from marketing content to the Chinese. To make money, they are blacklisting websites such as human rights advocates’ web pages in order to be allowed back into Beijing. What do you think about Google’s decision? Leave your answer in the comments below But many people are against this, arguing that the project to return to China (Codenamed “Dragonfly”) is a violation of previous statements from Google regarding Chinese censorship. Which brings us to the main topic…

Here Comes The Controversy…

The employees of Google are quite upset about this. While it is because most of them promote free speech and are against the idea of a search engine that blocks free speech, it is also because of a much more sinister reason. According to multiple sources, hundreds of angry Google employees(About 1,400) have signed a letter demanding more transparency to what Google is actually making. This is because they were not informed of the development of so-called Project Dragonfly and learned about it eventually from the public media. So yes. Google built their secret search engine without telling its employees. The employees of Google put it this way:

Our industry has entered a new era of ethical responsibility: the choices we make matter on a
global scale. Yet most of us only learned about project Dragonfly through news reports
early August.​

This statement is from a letter that “Googlers” (The people who work at Google) wrote to Google executives requesting more transparency on behalf of the company. They also claim that the choices that Google makes can affect the world at a large scale. As expected, most of the employees are against making a censored search engine for Google. You can read the full letter here.

This is not the first time that Google employees have reacted badly to their company’s choices. In the past, Googlers have rallied against a project to provide artificial intelligence to military drones. Since this rejection from the employees, Google has terminated its contract with the Pentagon. But Google is a company that treats its employees well and gives them a lot of power, unlike some other companies. A big disagreement such as this one could taint Google’s reputation as such a friendly company. And as soon as news about this airs on media, you can bet that other people will start to have opinions on this matter as well. If Google executives don’t tread carefully, this could start a crisis within the company.

In response to the letters from the employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai claimed that Google was “not close” to making a search engine for China. He says that it is still unclear whether the filtered search engine will be implemented in China, and the designs were just “exploratory”. Of course, this is probably just to reassure the employees. Could China be getting a new Google search engine soon? Comment what you think about this below, and be sure to share this article with your friends too!

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2 Responses

  1. Like says:

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