Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Menlo Park, CA, United States (4E) – Google will likely push through with its controversial project to develop a “censored search engine” for China that will block terms deemed unfriendly by the communist rulers.
“Project Dragonfly” is a self-censoring mobile search engine being developed by Google exclusively for use in China. Dragonfly is a joint venture between Google and a China-based company.
Critics of Dragonfly claim China will use this tool to suppress dissent. It will be launched in 2019 amid what Human Rights Watch calls a “broad and sustained offensive on human rights” by Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai openly discussed the possibility Dragonfly will fly in China at a recent tech conference in San Francisco. He also tried to make Google’s surrender to China more palatable by claiming only “1%” or Google searches will be censored. One percent of one billion searches is still 10 million and there will certainly be billions of searches per month in China.
Pichai said working on a Project Dragonfly is in line with the company’s mission to “provide information to everyone.” He noted that China accounts for 20% of the world’s population.
Pichai said Google is also taking “a longer-term view” about China. He still claims Google hasn’t decided if it will actually launch Project Dragonfly in China. Pichai said it’s time for Google to get an understanding of the Chinese market from the inside out.
“It’s a wonderful, innovative market,” said Pichai. “We wanted to learn what it would look like if we were in China, so that’s what we built internally.
He noted that “given how important the market is and how many users there are, we feel obliged to think hard about this problem and take a longer-term view.”
Pichai hid the fact Project Dragonfly will censor 1% or more of searches by saying this engine will still be able to answer “well over 99% of the queries” put to it.
Google only confirmed Project Dragonfly’s existence when its chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, spoke at a U.S. Senate hearing last month.
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