Friday, 18 January 2019
Media release, for immediate use
To mark Internet Freedom Day, Tibetans, Tibet supporters and corporate campaigners gathered outside multiple Google offices in 10 countries, across 5 continents, to call on the Google to scrap its controversial plans to develop a censored search engine in China, Project Dragonfly.
Photos of the protests are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cnzqrskpq2gmgeh/AAByqlukldtiLl4K-fbqHdA2a?dl=0
The actions are part of a wider campaign by a coalition of Tibet groups (1), human rights organisations and ethical consumer groups (2). Together the groups urge Google executives to officially close Project Dragonfly, which, if it goes ahead, would see the tech company create a search engine that complies with the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s tight internet censorship laws and would facilitate state surveillance in China by linking users’ search history with their telephone numbers.
“The activities around the world today have clearly demonstrated the opposition to Project Dragonfly from Tibet and, Uyghurs, human rights defenders and even many of Google’s own staff. The people who turned out today know as well as anyone how the Chinese government under Xi Jinping has heightened the repression, the state intrusion and the surveillance, on the streets and online,” said John Jones, Free Tibet. He continued, “They know that this is not the time for Google to be working with this regime and effectively helping it carry out its human rights abuses. Google’s executives should heed their words and announce that the project has been scrapped.”
Activists carried placards that read: “Stop Google Censorship”, and listed the search terms that would be blacklisted by the new search engine, including ‘Dalai Lama’, ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’, ‘peaceful protest’ and ‘Free Tibet’.
“We strongly urge Google to immediately drop Project Dragonfly and urge that they uphold their ethical principles,” said Dorjee Tseten, Students for a Free Tibet. He added, “Google cannot and must not make the profit from the Chinese government’s brutal human right abuses and support China’s infrastructure of oppression. Freedom of expression, online and offline, is virtually non-existent in Tibet and this action of Google will further lead into arresting or imprisoning people simply for expressing their views online which make the company complicit in human rights violations.”
During actions organisers handed out leaflets to Google employees and discussed with them the dangers of the Dragonfly search engine; many of whom were supportive and confirmed that Project Dragonfly was still a matter of concern to Google employees. “It’s quite a big topic. It’s a big topic inside as well,” said a Google employee who wanted to remain anonymous. Another added “It’s a good cause. Keep going.”
A third letter to Google management was also delivered in a number of cities, including in London where the UK’s Communications Manager came out to meet with the protesters and accept a letter from the group.
“We have written two letters to Sundar Pichai, and Google management, but have yet to have any response despite the seriousness of our concerns,” said Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network. “Google cannot continue to ignore the fact that by launching Dragonfly in China they will be directly supporting China’s repressive regime and compromising the company’s commitment to human rights protection. We want to talk directly to ”
“Our conversations with Google employees in London today reinforced just how many of its staff members vehemently oppose Project Dragonfly. The growing voice of opposition within Google itself and the tens of thousands of global citizens standing up to the company’s censorship efforts simply cannot be ignored,” said Gloria Montgomery, Director at Tibet Society. She added, “There is a growing voice of opposition within Google itself as well as tens of thousands of global citizens standing up to the company’s censorship efforts simply cannot be ignored.”
There has been significant opposition to Project Dragonfly from within Google. Thousands of staff members have circulated letters expressing their concerns, leaked information to the press and in some cases resigned in protest.
“It’s just not good enough for Google to dismiss its collusion with repressive regimes as a ‘limited internal effort’ — as today’s global protests make clear. Google continues to collect and profit from the data of its millions of users,” commented Sondhya Gupta, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs. She continued, “today those users are joining together with Google employees, shareholders and those communities most impacted by the company’s belief that technology is neutral, to hold it to account. Project dragonfly would normalise tech giants’ complicity in human rights abuses: Google must cancel it immediately.”
The wider campaign has seen over 54,000 people signing a petition addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, calling on him to halt Project Dragonfly and commit the company to a free and open Internet (3).
For further information or comment, please contact:
John Jones, Free Tibet
T: 0207 324 4605
Gloria Montgomery, Tibet Society
T: 020 7923 0021
Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network
T: +44 (0)7748 158 618
Dorjee Tseten, Students for a Free Tibet
Notes for editors
- For further information, see: www.StopGoogleCensorship.online, www.freetibet.org, www.tibetnetwork.org, www.studentsforafreetibet.org, www.tibetsociety.com
- For further information, see: www.sumofus.org
- View the SumOfUs petition here: https://actions.sumofus.org/a/google-cancel-project-dragonfly-1 which has been launched in conjunction with Tibet support groups Free Tibet, the International Tibet Network and Tibet Society.