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Ex-exec claims Google shrugged off human rights in search of profits

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Google, Profits, Human Rights
An ex-Google exec on Thursday accused the search giant of abandoning its “Don’t be evil” credo as it chased profits.

Ross LaJeunesse, an 11-year Google veteran who left his post as head of international relations in April, claimed in a Thursday interview that the company had pushed him out after a lengthy clash over human rights in China.

LaJeunesse, who in 2010 spearheaded Google’s decision to stop censoring search results in the world’s most populous country, effectively ending its business there said in a Thursday blog post on Medium that he was “alarmed” to learn that Google had begun to develop a new, censored search engine just seven years later.

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The secret project, dubbed “Dragonfly,” was meant for the Chinese market. Google ended up shuttering the search engine following employee pushback in 2018.

LaJeunesse said he also expressed alarm at Google Cloud executives pursuing deals with the Saudi government, as well as the opening of the Google Center for Artificial Intelligence in Beijing in 2017.

The AI Center — which critics feared would effectively put cutting-edge tech into the hands of China’s Communist Party “completely surprised” LaJeunesse, he said, “and made it clear to me that I no longer had the ability to influence the numerous product developments and deals being pursued by the company.”

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He partly blamed the shift on the way co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin “disengaged” and let others run the tech juggernaut, noting that Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat was hired from Wall Street and that “beating earnings expectations every quarter became the key priority.”

“Just when Google needed to double down on a commitment to human rights, it decided to instead chase bigger profits and an even higher stock price,” he added.

LaJeunesse said that Google eventually told him that his job was being eliminated due to a “reorganization,” and that he was offered another role “in exchange for my acquiescence and silence.”

Instead, he chose to leave the company and go into politics. A Democrat, LaJeunesse is currently for US Senate against Susan Collins in his home state of Maine.

A Google spokeswoman said that Ross was offered “a new position at the same exact level and compensation, which he declined to accept.”

“We have an unwavering commitment to supporting human rights organizations and efforts,” they added. “That commitment is unrelated to and unaffected by the reorganization of our policy team, which was widely reported and which impacted many members of the team.”

Source: New York Post

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