A hot potato: The controversial censored search engine that Google was working on for China is no more. A company executive once again confirmed that the search giant is no longer working on Project Dragonfly — this time under oath.
Project Dragonfly, which was contracted by the Chinese government, was reportedly shut down last December just after CEO Sundar Pichai had appeared in front of Congress with nothing but evasive answers regarding the status of the project.
Then in March of this year, Google insiders reported that they had noticed some 900 changes to the Dragonfly codebase that were made between December and February — a time when the project was supposedly terminated. Google denied the allegations calling them “wholly inaccurate speculation.”
This week, Google’s Vice President of Global Government Affairs and Public Policy Karan Bhatia was grilled by members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee regarding censorship and anti-conservative bias. As a matter of course, Bhatia was asked by Republican Senator Josh Hawley about the status of Project Dragonfly.
Google’s Bhatia, questioned by Sen. Hawley, says, “We have terminated Project Dragonfly.” Then back to the party line: Google has “no current plans” to go to China. Sounded to me like there is definitively no future for Project Dragonfly, but that would be news to me?— Davey Alba (@daveyalba) July 16, 2019
“We have terminated Project Dragonfly,” Bhatia told the committee under oath and putting a final nail in the coffin.
Details on Project Dragonfly first emerged last August. The effort to create a search engine for China that censored forbidden topics like democracy, religion, human rights, and similar searches, raised eyebrows both internally and publicly.
In October, US Vice President Mike Pence slammed Google saying Dragonfly would “strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers,” and that it should be ended.
By November, employees were calling for a halt to the project en masse. More than 1,400 employees signed internal and open letters calling for the project’s termination. It was shut down the following month.
Tuesday's testimony seems to have put the matter to bed. While Bhatia could have been bending the truth, it is not likely that he would have risked lying to Congress — an offense that could land him in jail.