Google has abandoned its plans to launch a censored search engine in China, according to testimony by a company executive before a US Senate committee on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The tech giant has faced continued criticism from lawmakers, the public, and its employees for its work on Project Dragonfly—the initiative to develop a search product for China.

  • Critics have said Google would become complicit in censorship and monitoring of Chinese citizens should the company launch Dragonfly.
  • Google has also drawn ire for not renewing contracts with the US government while pursuing a greater presence in China.
  • US President Donald Trump recently pledged to investigate Google’s “treasonous” links to China.
  • China has become an attractive market for overseas tech companies, which are drawn by the country’s gigantic internet population.

“Yes, we have terminated [Project Dragonfly].” —Karan Bhatia, Google vice president of public policy, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

Details: In response to questions by lawmakers, Bhatia said that the company has no current plans to enter the Chinese search market.

  • Bhatia said the company offers very few products in China, but evaded questions on whether the company censored search results when operating, its defunct Chinese search engine.
  • Dragonfly would require real-name verification of users and data would be shared with a Chinese partner, according to previous reports.

Context: Project Dragonfly was effectively ended last year. Google developers lost access to data from Beijing-based website, which the company was using to learn about Chinese search habits and develop content blacklists to comply with the country’s regulations.

  • Employees later said that work on the project had not stopped after identifying ongoing work on an associated batch of code, according to a report by The Intercept.
  • In December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the work on Dragonfly was limited.
  • Google search was blocked in China in 2010 after the company redirected traffic from its Chinese domain to its Hong Kong service, effectively ending the information blockade for its users in the country. 
  • The decision to redirect search results came following a Chinese cyberattack targeting Gmail users.
  • In early 2010, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, said in an interview that the company didn’t want to operate services that were censored.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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