Internet search giant Google has abandoned efforts to create a search engine in China under the codename Project Dragonfly, after facing widespread backlash and criticism for a few months now.
Google Uses Phrase Terminated for the First Time
According to media reports, Google’s vice president of public policy Karan Bhatia said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing 16 July that Google has “terminated Project Dragonfly.” The comment came in response to questions from Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who wanted to learn more from the executive about Google’s dealings with China.
While it was the first time an executive used the words terminated when talking about Project Dragonfly, Google argued it has said for months it isn’t working on a Search engine in China and that no work has been done on the project.
In August Google employees were up in arms after The Intercept published a report citing leaked documents that showed Google was working on a search engine for China that would censor websites and search terms that had to do with human rights, religion, peaceful protest, and democracy.
Google Tried to Downplay Dragonfly Efforts
The Intercept reported Google’s Chief Executive Sundar Pichai met with a government official in China and that programmers and engineers have been developing an Android App for the country that blocked out websites. That prompted more than 400 Google employees to sign an open letter calling for the Internet giant to halt those plans. “Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be,” the employees wrote. “Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.”
Google was largely blacklisted in China back in 2010 after it refused to abide by censorship laws. But more recently Google has been trying to get back into a country that is home to a burgeoning middle class who are increasingly digital. When the Intercept report broke in August Google’s CEO Pichai attempted to downplay the efforts, telling employees in a meeting that Google has been in exploration stage for quite a while and has been open about its desire to expand in China. He told employees at the time the company wasn’t working on a search product.
During a Congressional hearing in December, Pichai confirmed the project but said Dragonfly effort was “limited.” He also wouldn’t rule out developing tools for China.