Google Employees Don't Believe That Work On Its Censored Search Engine Has Stopped [Updated With Google's Response]

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Update: Google has issued a statement on this story:

"This speculation is inaccurate. As we've said for many months, we have no plans to launch Search in China and there is no work being undertaken on such a project. Team members have moved to new projects."

Google had been working on a censored search engine, destined for China. It was under the project name "Dragonfly". When employees found out about the project, they were pretty upset, and staged some protests to get Google's management to stop work on the search engine. But it appears that there is still some work being done.

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Google employees have been monitoring the database, and saw that around 500 code changes were made in December, and another 400 made in January of 2019. That shows that the project is not dead, and is still pretty active. This group of employees also looked at the company's budgeting plans and saw that there are around 100 employees still working on Dragonfly.

While it is possible that these changes were being made to kill off the project. But given that there were over 400 changes made in January alone, that seems like the project is still being worked on. This is all coming out of a report from The Intercept, who also spoke with an unnamed Google software engineer that believes the company's CEO is waiting for the Dragonfly outrage to die down, before it restarts the project under another name.

When Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai testified in front of Congress late last year, he was asked about Dragonfly, and stated that they have no plans to launch a search engine in China at this time. That right there was not surprising. This is because Dragonfly is not finished, so there would be no launch plans ready for launching a search engine in the country. But, Pichai also did not say that they weren't working on a censored search engine. After that testimony, many protests erupted at Google offices around the world. With employees wanting Google to stick to its motto of "don't be evil".

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Currently, Google is completely blocked in China. It pulled out of the country back in 2010, as it decided that it didn't want to play games with the Chinese government and its censorship laws. Since then, many search engines and Android app stores have popped up in the country, which is going to make it pretty difficult for Google to re-enter the market. Google didn't completely pull out though. It still owned another website called 265.com. This website has been used to track web queries for almost the past decade, to see what Chinese users are searching for, and what should be blocked.

Google was using 265.com to build Dragonfly, as it was able to see what was being censored and what wasn't. Due to China's strict censorship laws, Google does have to abide by those laws if it wants to do business in China. But many Google engineers and employees see it as unethical, and it wants Google to stop working on the search engine. It was 'effectively ended' back in December after Pichai testified in front of Congress. But what that one software engineer said, very well may be true. Pichai may bring it back under a new name, once everyone has effectively forgotten about it.