Google has been under fire for complying with foreign governments’ totalitarian policies.
In an New York Times interview, Google CEO Sundar Pichai tried to combat internal and external backlash against the company’s accomodations to China’s communist government by saying "we are censoring search results because we're complying with the law."
The trouble comes mostly from the company’s development of Dragonfly, a Chinese government-approved search engine that allows the government to closely monitor citizens’ we use. The product even attaches phone numbers of Chinese citizens to their web searches so that the Chinese government could easily spy on political dissidents.
Earlier in 2018, Foreign Policy published a damning piece called, "Google Is Handing the Future of the Internet to China." It began with the ominous statement, "In May, Google quietly removed ‘Don’t be evil’ from the text of its corporate code of conduct, deleting a catchphrase that had been associated with the company since 2000.”
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and other organizations and experts signed a letter condemning this project and requested that Sundar Pichai put a stop to it immediately. Many Google employees like Jack Poulson quit their positions with the tech giant over this scandal, voicing their concerns about collaborating with tyrannical regimes. In his resignation letter, Poulson wrote:
I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe. There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands.
A similar scandal occurred in 2007, when Yahoo surrendered the private information about two dissident journalists to Chinese authorities The journalists received 10-year prison sentences. During the congressional investigation that occurred afterward, Rep. Tom Lantos famously mocked Yahoo’s lack of moral scruples, saying, “While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies.'”
Pichai cited the “right to be forgotten” legislation as Google’s precedent for censorship in China. The “right to be forgotten laws,” as described by CNBC’s coverage, are “ The right to request that internet businesses delete certain personal data under some circumstances.” his means that consumers have a right to scrub their past presence off of the internet from certain websites. The EU determined that consumers should have some level of control regarding where their names pop up on the internet. Pichai unfairly compared EU legislation designed to protect consumers with Google’s decision to betray consumers to fit the Chinese government’s authoritarian demands.”