Google Employees Demand Company Kill Censored Chinese Search Product

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Photo: Jeff Chiu (AP)

Googlers have, over the past few months, been fighting for a louder voice and greater self-determination within a company that’s increasingly gone astray of its bare-minimum unofficial motto, “don’t be evil”—and more often than not, they’re winning. But there’s still one big fly in the ointment.


Discomfort over revelations, first reported by Gizmodo, that the crown jewel of Silicon Valley was working hand in glove with the Pentagon on an AI-imaging program for drone footage, known as Project Maven, brought internal backlash and the cancellation of Google’s commitment to the project. Reporting by the New York Times regarding golden parachutes the company handed to high-ranking employees accused of sexual misconduct resulted in coordinated mass walkouts. Though not all demands were met, that display of solidarity brought an end to Google’s long-running practice of forced arbitration settlements for sexual misconduct cases.

The exception to this string of employee victories—all of which are largely unprecedented in the tech sector—is Project Dragonfly, the search product Google is developing for the Chinese market. It’s reported to come baked in with government-requested censorship and ties queries to users’ phone numbers, which Amnesty International warns could allow for greater surveillance. This summer, 1,400 Googlers signed a letter asking (politely, that time) for Dragonfly to be mothballed. Another employee, who quit in disgust over the project’s compliance with the Chinese government’s wishes, urged the Senate to scrutinize Dragonfly.

Still, Dragonfly remains active.

This morning, the fight to shut down Dragonfly escalated a step further. Rather than send a letter to company leadership, only to have it leak to press soon after, Googlers posted the letter publicly on Medium—and took the extraordinary risk of publicly signing their names to it, beginning with 10 workers, six of which are in senior or leadership roles. New names will be added as more Googlers sign the letter.

Update: As of noon Eastern on Wednesday, 407 employees have publicly signed the letter.

Continued development and deployment of Dragonfly would, in the eyes of these dissenters, “make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses” and would create precedent for the company to build similarly draconian tools for other foreign powers.


“Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company’s values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company willing to place its values above its profits,” the letter reads. “After a year of disappointments including Project Maven, Dragonfly, and Google’s support for abusers, we no longer believe this is the case. This is why we’re taking a stand.”

A Google spokesperson declined to comment specifically on this issue but added that “We’ve been investing for many years to help Chinese users, from developing Android, through mobile apps such as Google Translate and Files Go, and our developer tools. But our work on search has been exploratory, and we are not close to launching a search product in China.”


Read the full letter below:

We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly.

We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google’s effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.

We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. International human rights organizations and investigative reportershave also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project. So far, our leadership’s response has been unsatisfactory.

Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.

Our company’s decision comes as the Chinese government is openly expanding its surveillance powers and tools of population control. Many of these rely on advanced technologies, and combine online activity, personal records, and mass monitoring to track and profile citizens. Reports are already showing who bears the cost, including Uyghurs, women’s rights advocates, and students. Providing the Chinese government with ready access to user data, as required by Chinese law, would make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses.

Dragonfly would also enable censorship and government-directed disinformation, and destabilize the ground truth on which popular deliberation and dissent rely. Given the Chinese government’s reported suppression of dissident voices, such controls would likely be used to silence marginalized people, and favor information that promotes government interests.

Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company’s values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company willing to place its values above its profits. After a year of disappointments including Project Maven, Dragonfly, and Google’s support for abusers, we no longer believe this is the case. This is why we’re taking a stand.

We join with Amnesty International in demanding that Google cancel Dragonfly. We also demand that leadership commit to transparency, clear communication, and real accountability. Google is too powerful not to be held accountable. We deserve to know what we’re building and we deserve a say in these significant decisions.


Ammar Aijazi, Software Engineer
Alejandro Alderman, Software Engineer
David H. Alexander, Senior Software Engineer
Randy Almand, Software Engineer
Alon Altman, Senior Site Reliability Engineer
Nina-Marie Amadeo, Software Engineer
Christopher Anderson, Senior Software Engineer
Ryan Anderson, Site Reliability Engineer
Allison Andrews, Site Reliability Engineer
Wesley Aptekar-Cassels, Site Reliability Engineer
Guillaume Aubian, Software Engineer
Daniel Bali, Software Engineer
Janos Barbero, Software engineer
Eric Barndollar, Staff Software Engineer
Pierre-Alexandre Bastarache Roberge, Software Developer
Laetitia Baudoin, Software Engineer
Daniel Bauman, Software Engineer
David Bendebury, Software Engineer
Steven Bills, Software Engineer
Max Bittker, Software Engineer
Ryan Biwer, Software Engineer
Naomi Black, Technical Program Manager
Donald S. Black, Software Engineer
Adam Blackburn Norberg, Senior Software Engineer
Bryan Blatt, Software Engineer
Dan Boger, Site Reliability Engineer
Peter Boothe, Software Engineer
David Bort, Staff Software Engineer
Pierre Bourdon, Senior Software Engineer
Jen Bourey, Staff Software Engineer
Jeff Bowden, Senior Software Engineer
Keith Brady, Staff Site Reliability Engineer
Gordon Brander, Designer
Shawn Brenneman, Software Engineer
Michael Bringle, Software Engineer
Chad Brubaker, Senior Software Engineer
Christian Brunschen, Software Engineer
Colm Buckley, Engineering Director
Liza Burakova, Security Engineer
Bri Burr, Software Engineer
Toby Burress, Site Reliability Engineer
Jason Cahoon, Site Reliability Engineer
Francis Carr, Software Engineer
Erik Carter, Art Director
Mike Castle, Release Engineer
Mike Castner, Program Manager
John Cater, Senior Software Engineer
Clay Caviness, Site Reliability Engineer
Rodrigo Chandia, Software Engineer
Craig Chasseur, Senior Software Engineer
Isaac Clerencia, Site Reliability Engineer
Marc Cohen, Staff Developer Advocate
Travis Collins, Senior Software Engineer
Marie Collins, Business Analyst
Mike Conley, Senior Technical Program Manager
Patrick Conner, Software Engineer
Ollie Cook, Site Reliability Engineer
Brett Cooley, Software Engineer
Charles Crissman, Senior Software Engineer
Stryder Crown, Custom Solutions Engineer
Cian Cullinan, Site Reliability Engineer
Marco Cunha, Strategic Cloud Engineer
Philip Davis, Site Reliability Engineer
Michael De Rosa, Site Reliability Engineer
Damien Desfontaines, Privacy Engineer
Susan Dickey, Software Engineer
Kate Donahue, Software Engineer
Don Dresser, Technical Program Manager
Karel Driesen, Senior Software Engineer
Grégoire Duchêne, Software Engineer
Paul Duke, Software Engineer
Thai Duong, Information Security Engineer
Ben Eggers, Site Reliability Engineer
Abraham Egnor, Senior Software Engineer
Todd Eisenberger, Senior Software Engineer
Alexandre Emelianov, Software Engineer
Burcin Erocal, Site Reliability Engineer
Gabriel Ewing, Software Engineer
Michael Falgoust, UX Researcher
Nick Felt, Software Engineer
Mark Fickett, Software Engineer
Sean Finney, Site Reliability Engineer
Paul Fisher, Senior software engineer
Liz Fong-Jones, Staff Developer Advocate
Roman Franchuk, Site Reliability Engineer
Amr Gaber, Software Engineer
Cory Gagliardi, Software Engineer
Matthew Garrett, Staff Security Engineer
Nicole Gfroerer, Program Manager
Dan Glick, Software Engineer
Beth Goldberg, Research Program Manager
Brian Goldman, Software Engineer
Boaz Goldstein, Site Reliability Engineer
Pedro Gonnet, Senior Software Engineer
Ian Gowen, Software Engineer
Reilly Grant, Senior Software Engineer
Sachith Gullapalli, Software Engineer
Andrew Gunsch, Staff Software Engineer
Logan Hanks, Staff Software Engineer
Shawn Hannah, Technical Program Manager
Andy Herrman, Senior Software Engineer
Johnicholas Hines, Software Engineer
Paul Hobbs, Software Engineer
Sarah Hodne, Site Reliability Engineer
Aidan Holloway-Bidwell, Software Engineer in Tools and Infrastructure
Tyler Holsclaw, IT Resident
Aaron Homer, Software Engineer
Dan Hope, UX Writer
Waldemar Horwat, Staff Software Engineer
David B Huang, Strategy & Operations Associate
Sebastian Hubbard, Software Engineer
Eric Hustvedt, Site Reliability Engineer
Simon Ilyushchenko, Software Engineer
Kelli Ireland, Software Engineer
Dan Irwin, Senior Test Engineer
Michał Jabczyński, Software Engineer
Keith Jackson, Software Engineer
Phoebe Jenkins, Software Engineer
Brandon Jewett-Hall, Software Engineer
Hongming Jin, Senior Software Engineer
Tim Johnson, Sr. Security Engineer
Patrick Jones, Technical Program Manager
Brandon Jones, Software Engineer
Abi Jones, Senior Interaction Designer
Mike Jurney, Site Reliability Engineer
Max Kaehn, Senior Software Engineer
Alex Kahn, Software Engineer
Tom Karlo, Senior Product Manager
Zu Kim, Software Engineer
Jamie Kinney, Cloud Solutions Architect
Kasey Klimes, UX Researcher
Irene Knapp, Software Engineer
Thomas Koch, Technical Solutions Engineer
Greg Kochanski, Staff Software Engineer
Kris Kooi, Software Engineer
Marcin Kowalczyk, Software Engineer
Gabe Krabbe, Senior Site Reliability Engineer
Thomas Kreeger, Systems Administrator
Natarajan Krishnaswami, Senior Software Engineer
Ryuho Kudo, Test Engineer
Matthew Kulukundis, Staff Software Engineer
Vineet Kumar, Senior Software Engineer
Jeremy Kun, Software Engineer
Adrien Kunysz, Systems Engineer
Aysha Kureishi, Program Manager
Aimee Langmaid, Senior Site Reliability Engineer
Pierre-François Laquerre, Senior Software Engineer
Marcos Lara-Reinhold, Senior Software Engineer
Sage LaTorra, Senior Test Engineer
Reuven Lazarus, Software Engineer
Alice Lemieux, Software Engineer
Joshua Liebow-Feeser, Software Engineer
Christopher Lu, Software Engineer
Viet-Tam Luu, Senior Software Engineer
Emily Maier, Site Reliability Engineer
Jake Marcus, Senior Software Engineer
Orion Martin, Software Engineer Tools and Infrastructure
Geoff Matters, Software Engineer
Brian McBarron, Software Engineer
Colin McMillen, Staff Software Engineer
Kwasi Mensah, Software Engineer
Henning Meyer, Senior Site Reliability Engineer
Robert L Miller, Software Engineer
Bryan C. Mills, Senior Software Engineer
Phillips Mitchell, Vendor Manager
Jessa Mittleman, Staff Software Engineer
Steven Monacelli, Program Manager
Sven Mueller, Site Reliability Engineer
Cristina Munoz, Software Engineer
Bert Muthalaly, Software Engineer
Aditi Nagaraj, Software Engineer
Dan Nanas, Program Manager
Max Nash, Software Engineer
Christopher Neffshade, Data Scientist
John Nesky, Software Engineer
Rob Neuhaus, Software Engineer
Ned Nguyen, Staff Software Engineer
Ben Niemann, Site Reliability Engineer
Mike Nonemacher, Staff Software Engineer
Peter Nuttall, Site Reliability Engineer
Andrew Olsen, Senior Software Engineer
John Olson, Software Engineering Manager
Kjetil Ørbekk, Senior Software Engineer
Ayla Ounce, Site Reliability Engineer
Chris Palmer, Staff Software Engineer
John Panzer, Software Engineer
Stephanie Parker, Policy Specialist
Vanja Pejovic, Software Engineer
John Phillpot, Site Reliability Engineer
Anthony Polito, Software Engineer
Ian Post, Software Engineer
Michael Powell, Software Engineer
Joshua Pratt, Software Engineer
Alessandro Preite Martinez, Site Reliability Engineer
Xavid Pretzer, Staff Software Engineer
Vikas Pydah, Software Engineer
Sverre Rabbelier, Senior Software Engineer
Jesper Ramsgaard, UX researcher
Burton Rast, UX Design Lead
Connor Regan, Product Marketing Manager, Hardware
Tom Renn, Software Engineer
Jacqueline Rogoff, Software Engineer Tools and Infrastructure
Natasha Ross, Executive Business Partner
Michael Safyan, Senior Software Engineer
Eric Salo, Software Engineer
Mike Samuel, Staff Software Engineer
Michael K. Sanders, Senior Software Engineer
Aprotim Sanyal, Site Reliability Engineer
Michael Saunders, Product Manager
Christopher Schmidt, Senior Software Engineer
Erty Seidohl, Software Engineer
Yash Sekhon, Software Engineer
Ali Shah, Staff Software Engineer
Adam Shaw, Site Reliability Engineer
Kimos Shehata, Software Engineer
Martin Shelton, UX Researcher
Andrew Sherman, Software Engineer
Michael Shields, Software Engineer
Matthew Siegler, Senior Software Engineer
Austin Sims, Software Engineer
Joëlle Skaf, Staff Software Engineer
Sophie Smithburg, Site Reliability Engineer
Jacob Smullyan, Senior Software Engineer
Derek Snyder, Software Engineer
Kyle Spiers, Security Engineer
Andrew Stebbins, Software Engineer
Ben Stewart, Staff Software Engineer
Alec Story, Senior Software Engineer
Stevie Strickland, Software Engineer
Brian Swetland, Senior Staff Software Engineer
Huseyin Tasbent, Account Manager
Jennifer Thakar, Software Engineer
Daniel Thornburgh, Software Engineer in Tools and Infrastructure
Arthur Tilley, Software Engineer
Finbarr Timbers, Research Engineer
Valentin Tolmer, Software Engineer
Jonathan Tomer, Software Engineer
Omer Torok, Account Manager
Seth Troisi, Software Engineer
Philip Tucker, Software Engineer
Zora Tung, Software Engineer
Jakub Turski, Site Reliability Engineer
Rose Valle, Software Engineer
Filippo Valsorda, Senior Software Engineer
Andrei Vancea, Senior Software Engineer
Sandeep Vijayasekar, Software Engineer
Salim Virji, Site Reliability Engineer
Joel Votaw, Software Engineer
Ryan Waldman, Software Engineer
Rachel Walker, User Experience Researcher
Adrienne Walker, Staff Software Engineer
Shawn Wallace, Engineering Manager
Jazbel Wang, Software Engineer
Michael Weatherford, Test Engineer
Chris Weisiger, Software Engineer
Natalie Weizenbaum, Software Engineer
Guillaume Wenzek, Software Engineer
Meredith Whittaker, Google Open Research Lead
Rachel Wiens, Software Engineer
Kimberly Wilber, Software Engineer
Jamie Wilkinson, Senior Site Reliability Engineer
John Wohn, Cloud Program Manager
Ryan Wolf, Senior Software Engineer
Benjamin Wolf, Senior Software Engineer
James Woodyatt, Software Engineer
David Worsham, Senior Software Engineer
Edmund Wright, Software Engineer
Huajie Wu, Software Engineer, Tools and Infrastructure
Tariq Yusuf, Privacy Software Engineer
Joel Zacharias, Senior Software Engineer
Alexandre Zani, Software Engineer
Susanna Zaraysky, Content Strategist, Material Design
Jean Zheng, Senior Staff Technology Manager
Bonnie Zhou, Software Engineer
Augustin Zidek, Research Engineer
Miriam Zimmerman, Software Engineer
Elsa Zuckerman, Software Engineer


Do you have information about Project Dragonfly? Send us a tip via email, Keybase, or anonymously via our Secure Drop server. 



If they are unhappy with what their employer intends to do they could always leave and find another job