17/08/2018 15:44 BST

Google's Staff Are Protesting Its 'Secret' Censored Search Engine For China

This is the second time Google's employees have spoken out against their company.

Over a thousand Google employees have signed a letter protesting against the company’s secret plan to build a censored search engine specifically designed for China.

The letter reportedly calls on executives to review the ethics and transparency at the company.

The letter’s contents were confirmed by a Google employee who helped organise it but who requested anonymity.

Thomas Peter / Reuters

The letter says employees lack the information required “to make ethically informed decisions about our work” and complains that most employees only found out about the project — nicknamed Dragonfly — through media reports.

The letter is similar to one thousands of employees had signed to protest against Project Maven, a US military contract that Google decided in June not to renew.

In a transcript provided to Bloomberg, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly confirmed the existence of the search engine saying that it was in the “early stages” and that it still was “unclear” as to whether they would even be able to launch the product at all.

HuffPost UK has reached out to Google for comment.

What is Project Dragonfly?

Google currently has no presence in China after it removed itself in 2010 over censorship concerns. It has been actively seeking a way back into the country ever since.

The Intercept initially reported Google’s plans earlier this month, saying that it had seen internal Google documents and spoken to people familiar with the plans.

Codenamed “Dragonfly”, Google’s experimental search engine has apparently been under development since 2017.

Progress on the project picked up after a December meeting between Google’s Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, it added.

Search terms about human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protests will be among the words blacklisted in the search engine app, which The Intercept said had already been demonstrated to the Chinese government.

The finalised version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials, it added.