Google CEO Sundar Pichai publicly defended for the first time Monday his company’s work on a censored search engine for China.
Speaking at the WIRED 25 summit in San Francisco, Pichai argued that the search app, codenamed Dragonfly, would be beneficial to the Chinese people.
“It’s a wonderful, innovative market,” Pichai said. “We wanted to learn what it would look like if we were in China, so that’s what we built internally.”
The secretive search product, first revealed by The Intercept in August, would not only track users but would censor terms such as “Nobel Prize” and “human rights.”
Pichai suggested pushback against such features was the result of people failing to understand the values and laws of the Chinese government.
“People don’t understand fully, but you’re always balancing a set of values,” Pichai said. “Those values include providing access to information, freedom of expression, and user privacy. “But we also follow the rule of law in every country.”
Further defending Dragonfly, Pichai argued that despite the app being designed to comply with censorship, the majority of searches would be unaffected.
“It turns out we’ll be able to serve well over 99 percent of the queries,” Pichai added. “There are many, many areas where we would provide information better than what’s available.”
Google’s attempt to reenter the Chinese market comes 8 years after the company left the region.
In 2010, Google pulled out of China after the government both censored content and attempted to hack dissidents using Google services.
In a lengthy Twitter thread this week, a former Google engineer described how “entire news sections” were censored in China during that time.
1/ Google is working on a new search engine code-named "Dragonfly" that will aid China's effort to censor information from its citizenry.
As a former Google engineer I wanted to share some information on what it's like to be inside Google as these decisions are made pic.twitter.com/HAts5wXwsU
— Vijay Boyapati (@real_vijay) October 15, 2018
Although Google continues to claim Dragonfly is not preparing for launch, a leaked transcript of an internal meeting at the company reveals the search engine could be ready in as little as 3 months.
News of the controversial project has led to resignations, internal protest and criticism from human rights groups as well as a stern rebuke from Vice President Mike Pence.
Speaking at a Washington-D.C. think tank earlier this month, Pence called on Google to “immediately” cease its work on the project.
US vice president @Mike_Pence just gave a speech in which he called on @Google to "immediately end development of the Dragonfly app that will strengthen the Communist Party's censorship & compromise the privacy of Chinese customers." pic.twitter.com/hUEDre45LB
— Ryan Gallagher (@rj_gallagher) October 4, 2018
“Google should immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers,” Pence said.
Despite widespread condemnation, Google has shown no signs that it is willing to choose free speech over lucrative access to Chinese users.
Watch Alex Jones’ report: Google CEO Publicly Defends Dragonfly Chinese Censorship Project