Google plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China which will block some websites and search terms, and finally return to the country’s market after being abandoned eight years ago due to issues regarding censorship.
The move, however, has been condemned by politicians, Google users and mostly by Google employees.
First reported by The Intercept, the project is code-named “Dragonfly” and has been underway since the spring of 2017. The project progressed after Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai had a meeting with a top Chinese government official this last December.
While Google hasn’t yet officially communicated about the authenticity of the report, a representative from the company told the Business Insider that, “We don’t comment on speculation about future plans,” which does not sound like a denial of the report.
According to a report by the news publication, Google employees are ‘confused and angry,’ and apparently, on a chat group used by a few Googlers, one of the employees has called the situation “the new Maven.”
More than 3,000 employees had signed a letter to the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai, demanding that deal is scrapped. The Defence Department project which was to be used for analysing drone footage using Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques, was feared by the employees. They thought that the technology had the potential to and could help target people for death.
Google later announced that it would not renew a contract with the Department of Defense and that it would never build artificial-intelligence tools for weapons or programs that could cause harm. It also said that it will draft new ethical standards to guide the company’s use of technology and products.
US Senator for Florida, Marco Rubio condemned Google in a tweet and saying that “reading how Google has plans to help China set up a censored search engine is very disturbing.” He, however, doesn’t appreciate that the company dropped Project Maven. He said, “they won’t help the Department of Defense keep us safe but they will help China suppress the truth?”
Giving benefit of the doubt until we learn more. But reading how @Google has plans to help #China set up a censored search engine is very disturbing. They won’t help @DeptofDefense keep us safe but they will help China suppress the truth? https://t.co/S0X3VemOIT
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 1, 2018
If “Dragonfly” is for real, then we could expect another revolt within the organization.
The Intercept reports reveals, that search terms about human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protests will be among the words blacklisted in the search engine app.
However, in a recent update on 2 August, an updated report published by Reuters revealed that the return of Google’s search engine to China was not true.
On the contrary, US-listed Baidu, which is China’s most dominant search engine was reported to have seen a dip in shares as they fell 7.7 percent on 1 August, despite posting better than expected quarterly results.
There is no clear confirmation or denial of the report, but whatever it is, a false alarm or a yet another mass revolt within the company, we will know for sure in the coming days.