Leadership & Strategy
Google developing censored search engine to take on Baidu in China, Project Dragonfly
May 20, 2020
Google has announced that it is exploring a version of its search engine that would comply with China’s strict internet censorship laws
In September, Google’s chief privacy officer Keith Enright told a Senate committee that Project Dragonfly, the censored search engine’s codename, exists but remains a long way from launch.
Abacus reported that Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, addressed the project at the Wired 25 conference in San Francisco, stating that Google will “follow the rule of law” when it comes to approaching a reintroduction to the Chinese market.
Google’s search engine was pulled from China in 2010 following a hacking attack of Chinese origin against itself and other US tech companies, and as of 2014 its search engine, Gmail facility, and Chrome browser are not available on the Chinese mainland.
With Project Dragonfly, that could be set to change.
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“We wanted to learn what it would look like if Google was operating in China,” Pichai said at the conference.
“It’s very early, we don’t know whether we would or could do this in China but we felt like it was important for us to explore. I think it’s important for us given how important the market is and how many users there are.”
SCMP noted that Dragonfly “would blacklist websites on human rights, democracy, religion and other issues deemed sensitive by the Chinese government” in order to be compliant.
In a column piece for SCMP, Bai Tongdong said that Baidu responded to the news by saying it would offer an opportunity to “win one more time”, though he noted that “Chinese internet users don’t seem convinced that Google’s retreat from China was due to fair but powerful competition from Baidu.”
He said, compared with concerns regarding Project Dragonfly going against Google’s ethos of open information for all, “The irony is that the news was welcomed by ordinary Chinese” who are concerned by Baidu’s prioritisation of profit-driven search results.
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