China’s censored Google is an ethical catastrophe

China's Great Firewall is the World's Largest Internet Censorship Operation .

The Chinese state says that the firewall is there to promote societal harmony within a growing population of billions of people. It considers the internet in China as part of its sovereign territory .

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Eight years ago, Google was removed from China withdrawing its research and other services because of the limitations of freedom of expression.

According to an alerting launcher who turned to the online news site The Intercept he now plans to revive a heavily censored version of his services in China.

This project, dubbed Dragonfly, will include a highly censored new version of Google's search services, including mobile apps, which will be run in partnership with a local company in China.

Censorship in China includes giving no results for research showing Chinese police or military brutality (such as the Tiananmen Square massacre ), pro-democracy sites, the Dalai -lama and all that relates to Taiwanese or Tibetan independence.

The whistleblower who spoke to The Intercept cited ethical concerns about this project – and rightly so. There are several ethical dilemmas with Google's return to China.

Should major Western corporations such as Google abandon ethical values ​​to earn money in China? Is it acceptable to design a technology to help the Chinese government restrict the human rights of its citizens? Where does "respect for Chinese values" turn into "assistance to oppress the Chinese people through censorship"? Is Google hypocritical in making money on the freedom of information available in most companies, but then selling it when he enters China?

The largest professional computer organization, the Association of Computing Machinery, recently updated its code of ethics which includes specific provisions that we can use to reflect to these questions.

Many Google employees are members of the ACM, which means that they have agreed to abide by this code. Some of these employees may be working on the Dragonfly project. They will have to evaluate their work according to the code.

An initial analysis using code (and this complex case requires more than space allows) offers three perspectives.

In the first place, the main objective of technological development should be to serve the public good, to "contribute to society and human well-being", to promote human rights and to protect the right to everyone has autonomy (principle 1.1).

The fact of taking part in censorship at the request of the Chinese state and censoring the aforementioned subjects would seem to be incompatible with this principle.

Individual freedom is greatly reduced in China, and this is reflected in the censorship of the internet there. But, despite what the Chinese government supports, the promotion of social harmony does not require the restriction of freedom or violation of human rights.

Numerical oppression. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Second, there are specific provisions in the code against assisting in the oppression of a population in the code. "IT professionals should take steps to avoid creating systems or technologies that deprive their rights or oppress people" (Principle 1.4).

By developing technologies to censor sites related to democracy and atrocities committed by China, Google employees would also probably violate this rule.

But does this justify compliance with local, regional, national and international laws and regulations (Principle 2.3)? The code of ethics expects IT professionals to challenge unethical rules – and violates them if a rule "has an inadequate moral foundation or causes recognizable harm."

It is also one thing to respect local customs and laws, and another to actively implement them, as Google will do.

By collaborating, Google, as a great Western society, is accused of giving credence to these oppressive laws. give the Chinese state political weight and propaganda for their policies.

Betray his values?

It would be very hypocritical for Google to take advantage of the values ​​that have allowed it to become the giant it is today in much of the world – democracy, freedom of speech, personal autonomy == and to let them fall on the Chinese market.

Instead of being a values-driven company, it seems to be purely lucrative.

So, what should Google do? One way to handle this responsibly would be to open the Dragonfly Project to the contribution of the rest of the company, not just the hundred working directly on the project. Let Google employees and other non-shareholder stakeholders decide which red lines match Google's values.

Research has shown that ethical societies are more profitable retaining employees proud to work for the company and gaining respect and loyalty public. .

Showing China the value of democratic participation in identifying the value of a business is likely to gain more respect for Google both at home and abroad.

Catherine Flick Reader in Computer Science and Social Responsibility, De Montfort University . This article was originally published on The Conversation . Read the original article .

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