Blog Google scraps Chinese censored search engine amid growing firestorm
Alaa Basatneh December 19, 2018

Google scraps Chinese censored search engine amid growing firestorm

After worldwide uproar,  an open letter sent out to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai signed by 60 human rights organizations, and Pichai himself testifying in Congress, Google has allegedly tabled its Dragonfly project—the secret censored search engine it was working on for China.

Google has been blocked in China since 2010, and the company has been working secretly on a prototype compatible with China’s strict internet censorship laws. Dragonfly, the proposed search engine, would link users searches to their cellphone numbers. It would also save the raw data from any searches that involve a Chinese company, granting China’s government access to that data.

“As Amnesty International and others set out in a letter to Sundar Pichai last week, threats to the rights to freedom of expression and privacy for millions of people in China should have never seen this project come into being,” stated Amnesty International’s secretary general Kumi Naidoo.

Naidoo welcomed the unconfirmed news that Google placed a stop on project Dragonfly: “We would welcome a decision by Google to drop Dragonfly and abandon its plans to cooperate in large-scale censorship and surveillance by the Chinese government. Going ahead with Project Dragonfly would represent a massive capitulation on human rights by one of the world’s most powerful companies.”

By the end of last week, about 700 Google employees had signed a petition protesting the decision on Medium, promising to resign if the company didn’t drop Dragonfly: “Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be.”

Since the news has not been officially announced by Google’s CEO, Naidoo urged Pichai to clear up speculations: “We once again call on Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai to clear up any speculation and publicly state that his company will refrain from developing censored search products and drop Dragonfly with immediate effect.”

This may be good news for users and advocates of freedom of expression worldwide, but the speculations and uncertainty from governments and big corporations are extremely unsettling. Therefore,  I urge you to take your personal security into your own hands. Don’t depend on big corporations to keep your identity safe and your data secure. Use Hotspot Shield to keep your identity hidden and your privacy protected.


Alaa Basatneh
About Alaa Basatneh

Alaa Basatneh is a human rights advocate and writer focusing on demolishing xenophobia. She is the protagonist of the award-winning documentary #ChicagoGirl.

View all posts by Alaa Basatneh
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