The plan of United States tech giant Google to launch a search engine limited by censorship in China has been cancelled by the company, said an official of the company. The project faced criticism from various corners including in the US and had collected some controversy.
While there were reports that had suggested that the project had been cancelled last year itself, there were also reports that it had been active all the while.
“We have terminated Project Dragonfly,” Google executive Karan Bhatia told the US Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to a report by Buzzfeed, which reported the new comments from Google, this was the first public confirmation that the project had been terminated completely. The site later reported confirmation of the news by a spokesman for Google who said that the company currently had no plans for launching of the said search engine in China and the no work to that effect was undergoing at the company currently.
Earlier media reports had quoted a former employee of Google saying that the company’s prototype Chinese search engine was “disturbing”.
There was severe criticism of the project – codenamed Dragonfly by the company, because criticizers perceived that it could potentially be a means for the Chinese authorities to filter and censor web content to suit their political agenda as well as effectively monitor what its citizens were searching for online.
There was immense pressure on Google from different quarters to not to go ahead with the program, but in late 2018, there was an sense of reluctance in Google to publicly confirm that the censored search engine development project for China had been terminated permanently.
In Decmebr, Sundar Pichai, head of Google’s parent company Alphabet, told the US House Judiciary Committee that at that point, work on Dragonfly was “limited”.
It was in the spring of 2017 that Dragonfly was launched as a company project, claimed the investigative news site The Intercept on the basis of documents that it had obtained. The site had also reported that the contents of the document also showed that at one point in time, engineers at Google were developing methods to filter out websites – which included the likes of the BBC and Wikipedia – and not include them in the results of searches on the Chinese search engine, according to the censorship policy in China.
On the other hand in a separate development, Google faced the wrath of US president Donald Trump after he said that alleged links between Google and China would be investigated by the Trump administration.
The comments by Trump were made after a speech by the billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel wherein he raised the question for the senior management at Google about whether Chinese spies had infiltrated the company. He had also questioned about why Google had made “the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military” and not that of the US.
All the allegations have been denied by Google. However the tech giant has not yet responded to the comments of a probe made by Trump.
Thiel was described as a “great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone” by Trump in a tweet.
“Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government.” @foxandfriends A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!”, Trump had tweeted.
(Adapted from BBC.com)