For years, Google executive Ross LaJeunesse tried to get the mega company to commit to protecting human rights in China.
He was actually tasked with doing just that, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. Nearly a decade ago, Google announced that “it would stop censoring search results there to safeguard security and free speech,” the outlet reported. The Post continued:
LaJeunesse took the mission to heart: He later devised a human rights program to formalize Google’s principles supporting free expression and privacy. He began lobbying for it internally in 2017 — around the time when the tech giant was exploring a return to China, in a stark reversal of its 2010 move that made its search engine unavailable there.
Now, the 50-year-old is alleging that Google pushed him out for it in April.
“I didn’t change. Google changed,” LaJeunesse told The Washington Post. “Now when I think about ‘Don’t be evil,’ it’s been relegated to a footnote in the company’s statements.”
Recall that Google’s unofficial motto for years was “Don’t be evil,” but the company removed it from the code of conduct in early 2018.
More from the Post:
Within Google, China was seen as a booming market that represented concerns about the ways technology could be used to suppress free expression or enable surveillance. LaJeunesse modeled his human rights program on the way Google approached privacy and security issues, designing the team of employees, in functions such as supply chain, policy, and ethics and compliance, to help Google integrate, coordinate and prioritize human rights risk assessment.
But his mentor Kent Walker, Google’s powerful chief lawyer and head of policy, bristled at the idea, according to interviews with LaJeunesse and emails and documents viewed by The Post. Walker raised the concern that a formal commitment to human rights could increase Google’s liability, LaJeunesse said.
A spokeswoman for Google told the Post that the company has “an unwavering commitment to supporting human rights organizations and efforts.”
Despite such an alleged commitment, Google worked with the Chinese government to develop a search engine that censored content for citizens and tracked their searches.
The Intercept reported in 2018 that “The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.”
Search terms like “human rights,” “Nobel prize,” and “student protest” have been censored by the tech company for China.
In addition to censorship concerns, China is also dealing with a massive human rights scandal as the communist nation was forced to admit that it was placing Uyghurs and other Muslim-minorities in concentration camps. China claims they are “educational facilities,” but those who have escaped have told stories of torture, sexual abuse, and human experimentation. One woman said that a prisoner was raped in front of others, and any that responded to the scene were severely punished. She also said prisoners were kept in small rooms with just one pot for a toilet.
Leaked internal Chinese documents have also explained how the country interns Muslims.