Project Dragonfly - what Google would look like in China

Sundar Pichai

Previously, Google made an attempt to grow in China, but that struggle went all in vain.

On Monday, during an event hosted by Wired, Google CEO Sundar Pichai publicly announced that work was well underway on a project dubbed "Dragonfly", a version of the search engine that would be acceptable to the Chinese government.

Pichai was speaking on Monday at Wired Magazine's 25th-anniversary summit here in the US.

Google previously launched censored version of its search engine in China in 2006 before deciding that the censorship required to run the product was antithetical to the company's values.

"Dragonfly" is a rumoured effort inside Google to develop a search engine for China that would censor certain terms and news outlets, among other things.

The comments are the first time Google has officially confirmed it is working on the search engine, dubbed Project Dragonfly, which has been criticised heavily by human rights organisations.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai affirms, without debating the Chinese censorship of the Internet, that Google in China would satisfy not less than 99% of the Chinese citizens.

'We don't know whether we would or could do this in China but we felt it was important to explore, ' he said. "I think it's important for us given how important the market is and how many users there are".

It is exactly that large number of users that is tempting Google to come back on the Chinese market, after it discontinued its search services back in 2010.

Through internal tests, he said Google found it would be able serve "well over 99% of queries". Since China is an important market, Google is developing a censored search-engine for Beijing codenamed "Dragonfly" that would filter content deemed sensitive by its ruling Communist Party regime.

He said one area where Google's presence could help in China would be for information on medical treatments including for cancer.

But Pichai also said that it was still early, and that he's taking a long-term view. In June, Google declined to renew a contract with the Pentagon after employees and outside groups said they were concerned about the use of artificial intelligence in weaponry. Pichai specifically mentioned the problem of fake cancer treatments in search results - an issue Baidu has struggled with in the past. Critics believe that Google chooses the big money from China and betrayed the "Don't be evil" own corporate moto. Going forward, Google is shying away from working with military-related projects over fears of public perception of the company. A leaked letter signed by more than 1,400 employees cited Dragonfly as an alarming departure from Google's normal transparency.

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