For a company that claims to value human rights, Google seems to be rather ambivalent when it comes to protecting free speech. A former top Google executive claims that he was pushed out of the company due to his opposition to a secret project that would allow one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet to further violate the rights of its citizens. 

Google, which used to champion the ideals of free speech later decided to adhere to another ideology, that of the almighty dollar. In 2018, the details about the top-secret Project Dragonfly were revealed to the public. Through this initiative, Google would have created a search engine for China that would allow its government to censor content and track the information that Chinese citizens were searching.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Ross LaJeunesse, who was Google’s global head of international relations in Washington said that he was in charge of implementing the company’s plan to stop censoring search results. 

According to the article, LaJeunesse “devised a human rights program to formalize Google’s principles supporting free expression and privacy.” He began pursuing this endeavor when the company began considering a return to the Chinese market after it made its search engine unavailable to the country in 2010.

“I didn’t change,” said the former executive. “Google changed.” He discussed the fact that the company’s mission statement used to include the phrase “Don’t be evil.” He says that now, the platitude has “been relegated to a footnote in the company’s statements.”

LaJeunesse proposed a program that was based on Google’s approach to privacy and security issues in roles related to “supply chain, policy, and ethics and compliance,” to “prioritize human rights risk assessment.” According to the former Google employee, Kent Walker, the company’s chief lawyer and head of policy rejected the proposal, stating that a “formal commitment” to human rights might increase the company’s liability.

Jenn Kaiser, one of Google’s spokeswomen, told The Washington Post that the company has “an unwavering commitment to supporting human rights organizations and efforts.” She claims LeJeunesse’s departure was the result of a “reorganization of our policy team.” 

The former executive was not the only one who took issue with Google’s apparent disregard for protecting human rights. After the details of the project were leaked to the press, more than 1,400 employees signed an internal letter excoriating the company’s secrecy about its plans for the Chinese market. 

After the supposed “reorganization,” was announced, LaJeunesse left the company, believing that he wouldn’t be employed much longer. In November of last year, he launched his campaign to challenge Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for her senate seat. 

The fallout over Google’s plan to assist China with violating the rights of its citizens caused much consternation, especially among people on the right who have already criticized the company for minimizing right-leaning content in its search results. As the country becomes more polarized, there has been a push to move the left further towards socialism which is more accepting of limiting speech that contradicts progressive ideology. It seems that Google, which has a leadership made up primarily of leftists, might be following that trend. 

Project Veritas recently exposed the fact that some members of Google’s leadership intended to use the company’s vast reach to influence the 2020 election. After failing to ensure a Democratic victory in 2016, it seems the company might be stepping up its efforts this year. It’s a dangerous sign; the notion that a company as powerful as Google would be willing to overlook blatant human rights abuses for profit indicates that it wouldn’t have a problem interfering in the Democratic process. 

If Google’s leadership does decide to use its influence to determine the results of this year’s elections, it is essential that its efforts are aggressively exposed. The fact that they scrapped Project Dragonfly after it was discovered shows that it isn’t impervious to public outcry. 

 

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