by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Should Google change its famous motto “Don’t be evil” to something like “Don’t be evil when it’s convenient, but it’s okay to be evil when it means new markets and more profit?” The question is pertinent, because The Intercept has reported that Google plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China in the next six to eight months, pending the approval of Chinese regulators.
China already has one of the world’s worst records on internet freedom. The Chinese government has built a large army of censors to scrub the internet to their liking in real time. Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has further tightened its control over its people’s right to free expression. …
… While Google has no problem bending its knee to authoritarians, it refuses to help the U.S. military. In early June, Google announced it wouldn’t renew a contract to do artificial intelligence work for the U.S. military after some strong opposition from its employees. The kind of work Google does with the Pentagon involves “using machine learning and engineering talent to distinguish people and objects in drone videos.” Worrying that Google’s AI work with the Pentagon may lead to development of lethal weapons, about 4,000 Google employees signed an open letter saying working with the U.S. military was putting users’ trust at risk, as well as ignoring its “moral and ethical responsibility.” Google’s senior management was also reportedly deeply conflicted about Google’s work with the Pentagon.