Google reportedly shuts down its Chinese censored search project

21 December, 2018, 01:05 | Author: Darnell Patrick
  • It looks like Google's controversial Chinese Dragonfly project has been binned

But fresh reports state that 265.com has been shut down and the rest of the Dragonfly team is facing difficulties in developing the project without the data source.

As internal tensions continue over Google's secretive Project Dragonfly, the initiative has reportedly been put on hold.

Dragonfly was first revealed by The Intercept in August to be the code name for Google's secret mission to build a censored search engine specifically for China, which would blacklist websites on any issues deemed sensitive by Beijing, from human rights to democracy to religion.

Google's modeling was based on data it harvested from a Chinese site it acquired in 2018 from billionaire Cai Wensheng called 265.com.

Google engineers working on Dragonfly obtained large datasets showing queries that Chinese people were entering into the 265.com search engine.

Google's censored search engine Dragonfly that was slated to be launched in China was full of controversies even before it became public. According to insiders, the privacy team was "really pissed". Had to read this to the setting of the Chinese Website 265.com. The data collected was to see what people in mainland China were searching for in order to build a Dragonfly prototype. Earlier it was reported that a special search Dragonfly will have to delete content that the Chinese leadership would regard as undesirable.


Under normal company protocol, analysis of people's search queries is subject to tight constraints and should be reviewed by the company's privacy staff, whose job is to safeguard user rights. Sergey Brin, who was at the helm of Google when the company shut down its China operation in 2010 as a protest, spent his childhood in the former Soviet Union, therefore had first-hand understanding of what censorship is about.

Google Translate officially returned to China a year ago, and remains one of the most popular iOS translation apps in the country, according to data from App Annie.

However, there was a catch with Google's idea that proved pretty controversial: the Chinese version of the search engine would have been heavily censored to comply with the country's laws.

'But right now there are no plans to launch in China. Employees feared that by censoring the search engine, Google was compromising its core values.

It's understandable why the privacy concerns would bring Dragonfly to a standstill. Pichai conceded that there was "no plans to launch a search service in China", though he had declined to provide a positive confirmation to the Congress' demand that Google should not launch "a tool for surveillance and censorship in China".

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