Google Halts Chinese Search Engine Project ‘Dragonfly’ After Backlash

The Intercept says it was the company's privacy team that dealt the killing blow, after preventing developers from accessing essential data on how the Chinese use search engines.

If Google actually releases a heavily-censored search engine in China, it would directly contribute to Chinese oppression - which actually contradicts Google's motto "Don't Be Evil".

The report found that Google representatives, chipping away at the Dragonfly venture, had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine. Google bought 265.com in 2008 from Chinese entrepreneur Cai Wensheng and it is one of the most popular homepages in mainland China.

According to two Google sources, engineers working on Dragonfly obtained large datasets showing queries that Chinese people were entering into the 265.com search engine.

Google's censored search engine Dragonfly that was slated to be launched in China was full of controversies even before it became public. To put it concisely in the words of the source quoted by The Intercept, the team was "really pissed". Had to read this to the setting of the Chinese Website 265.com. After much internal conflict, Dragonfly has been cut off from accessing the 265.com data, effectively stopping any progress. I'm sure the USA government is thrilled at the potential of Project Dragonfly being no more, but only time will tell if these reports hold water. There are few things more sensitive and revealing about a user than their search queries, and anyone with authority to review them would probably be subject to heavy oversight.

Mr Poulson was a senior research scientist at Google until he resigned in July 2018 in protest at the Dragonfly proposals.

Scott Beaumont, Google's leader in China and an indispensable architect of Project Dragonfly said that he didn't feel that his product decisions should be questioned by Google's legal, privacy and security teams.

Therefore the search results would have omitted information related to democracy, human rights, peaceful protest, or anything that "threatens" the Communist Party government of China. But right now there are no plans to launch in China. After raising concerns, Dragonfly engineers have been prevented from analyzing 265.com queries, and that has brought the project to a standstill.

Google Translate officially returned to China past year, and remains one of the most popular iOS translation apps in the country, according to data from App Annie.

"Going ahead with Project Dragonfly would represent a massive capitulation on human rights by one of the world's most powerful companies".

The news comes nearly a week after Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before Congress that "right now, there are no plans to launch a search service in China".

  • Eleanor Harrison