Google stands accused of collaborating with the Chinese over internet censorship. Photo: File

JOHANNESBURG  – Google stands accused of collaborating with the Chinese over internet censorship with Amnesty International warning that the move will set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.

In a Tuesday press release Amnesty said Google’s plans to launch a censored search app in China could irreparably damage internet users’ trust in the tech company.

“The prototype app would also make it easier for authorities to track individual users’ searches, which means there is a real danger that Google would be helping the Chinese government to arrest or imprison people. Chinese laws and regulations force tech companies to cooperate fully with inspections by public security officials,” said Amnesty.

To counter the move the rights group has launched a global petition calling on Google CEO Sundar Pichai to drop the app, which is codenamed Project Dragonfly and would blacklist search terms like “human rights” and “Tiananmen Crackdown”.

Following a public outcry from Google’s own workforce, Amnesty is reaching out to the company’s staff through protests outside Google offices and targeted messages on LinkedIn calling on them to sign the petition.

“This is a watershed moment for Google. As the world’s number one search engine, it should be fighting for an internet where information is freely accessible to everyone, not backing the Chinese government’s dystopian alternative,” said Joe Westby, Amnesty’s Researcher on Technology and Human Rights.

“Many of Google’s own staff have spoken out against these plans, unwilling to play a role in the Chinese government's manipulation of information and persecution of dissidents,” said Westby.

“Their courageous and principled stance puts Google’s leadership to shame. Today we are standing with Google staff and asking them to join us in calling on Sundar Pichai to drop Project Dragonfly and reaffirm Google’s commitment to human rights.”

According to Amnesty the Chinese government runs one of the world’s most repressive internet censorship and surveillance regimes.

In 2010 Google publicly exited the search market in China, citing restrictions to freedom of expression online. Since then, the Chinese government has intensified its crackdown and it is unclear how Google would safeguard human rights in this environment.

-   African News Agency (ANA)