Google CEO Defends Controversial Project Dragonfly

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Noor Imtiaz
Currently a MS student in Healthcare Biotech at Pakistan’s National University of Science and Technology juggling pure science and creative writing. I’m an avid reader who makes more time for books than Netflix.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has publicly defended his company’s decision of going ahead with Project Dragonfly. He said that his company was committed to serving its consumers all over the world.
The argument that Google has to comply with the laws of the Chinese government still stands as well. Pichai argued that in many countries Google serves in, there are censoring laws as well as ‘right to be forgotten’ laws. The project means censoring search results to abide by Chinese official internet browsing laws.
Sundar Pichai made this comments after authorities, and the general public has shown distaste. This aversion is common since an ongoing trade war between China and the US has made things difficult. The US government has been intent on making China submit to its trading demands. Equal sternness from China has brought issues to a sour stalemate. Amidst an unstable international phase, Google’s policy on submitting to China’s attacks on web surfing is not welcome. Pichai said:

“I’m committed to serving users in China. Whatever form it takes, I actually don’t know the answer. It’s not even clear to me that search in China is the product we need to do today.”

Project Dragonfly

Google was unavailable in China in the last ten years. China had enforced censorship on the search engine and even allegedly attempted hacking it. The Chinese government reportedly censored searches on Google without the company knowing. This led to Google being very public about its withdrawal from the country.
However, in August, the Intercept broke a smashing reveal on Project Dragonfly. According to the report, Google had been working on the project for a year. This new project was to submit to the same government that tried to hack the search engine. Google was working on blacklisting websites with topics like ‘democracy,’ ‘religion’ and ‘human rights.’ From sources on the Chinese government, these topics come under the category of ‘sensitive’ topics.

The Reaction

Google launched Project Dragonfly aimed at its consumers in China. Speculations regarding the project had been circulating for a couple of months. Some people believe the company was looking to re-establish itself in an internet market of 772 million users.
Others were angry over Google choosing to go after China even after it officially withdrew. Concerns regarding free speech and unfair censorship arose among US politicians as well as Google employees and users. Hence people principally against the project have accused the company of abetting the Chinese government in ‘repressing and manipulating’ its citizens.
This was before Google chief privacy officer Keith Enright finally confirmed the project in a US Senate hearing in mid-September. In a hearing mediated by Senator Ted Cruz, Enright refused to give outright details on Google’s policy on China. Enright also talked around detailing what the project was about. However, the confirmation was enough. Following the hearing, a spokesperson from Google said:

“We’ve been investing for many years to help Chinese users, from developing Android, through mobile apps such as Google Translate and Files Go, and our developer tools. But our work on search has been exploratory.”

Google has launched several other projects aimed at attracting the Chinese web market in the recent past. Only time will tell if Google manages to pull this off amid the ongoing US-China tensions.

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