MENLO PARK, CA: Google staff are internally protesting the search giant’s leaked strategy to re-enter the China market, saying any move to launch a censored search engine raises “urgent moral and ethical issues”, according to multiple news reports.

Earlier this month, documents leaked to tech publication The Intercept from inside Google indicated that the company plans to launch a re-worked search engine that would operate in accordance with China’s tough censorship rules and “blacklist sensitive queries” about dissidents, human rights and free speech among other topics.

Since the leaks, the alleged project – nicknamed ‘DragonFly’ and largely developed in secret, according to media reports – has been condemned by several US Senators and human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

An internal letter signed by more than 1,400 Google staff, which was obtained by The New York Times, raised serious ethical concerns about the China project and declared that “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment”.

“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” the letter said.

In a staff meeting, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and other senior management responded to employee concerns: “If we were to do our mission well, we are to think seriously about how to do more in China,” Pichai said in audio from the internal meeting that was shared with The New York Times.

“That said, we are not close to launching a search product in China.”

Google has not formally commented on the leaked proposals.

Sourced from The Intercept, The New York Times; additional content by WARC staff