Google is reportedly still working on its censored Chinese search engine Project Dragonfly according to internal Google sources.
Project Dragonfly is a censored version of Google Search for China which is designed to blacklist content that the Chinese government wants to censor. This content includes information about democracy, human rights, peaceful protest, and religion.
News of Project Dragonfly was first revealed by The Intercept in 2018. Since those initial reports were published, Google has repeatedly denied that it plans to launch search in China and has insisted that it’s not working on Project Dragonfly, with the latest denials coming earlier this month.
However, a new report from The Intercept suggests that despite Google’s recent claims, Project Dragonfly is still being actively worked on.
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The report says that according to internal Google sources, closed review committees are being formed inside the company to complete performance reviews of Project Dragonfly. These review committees are comprised of senior managers who have been previously briefed on Google’s search engine for China.
The internal Google sources suggest that this closed review process is in stark contrast to Google’s usual open, peer review style process. They also say that only a few Google employees are aware of these closed review committees and that management has committed to keeping Project Dragonfly secret.
The internal Google sources added that they believe this closed review process is being used to avoid employee scrutiny of Project Dragonfly and any further controversies about the censored Chinese search engine.
When details of Project Dragonfly were first leaked last year, many employees complained about the lack of transparency from Google and said that the project went against the company’s tradition of having an open workplace culture. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai subsequently promised his staff that the company would be more transparent about Project Dragonfly going forward. This latest decision to review Project Dragonfly in secret suggests that Pichai was not being sincere and is likely to generate further backlash from Google employees.
While it’s disappointing to see reports that Google is still secretly working on Project Dragonfly, it’s hardly surprising. We’ve seen numerous times that the company’s public statements often don’t align with their internal actions.
For example, the company has consistently denied that it has a political bias or agenda but leaked emails have shown a bias against President Trump and leaked audio has highlighted its plans to influence the Republican party.