Google Dragonfly

Google Dragonfly

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Updated Jul 18, 2019 at 04:49PM EDT by Matt.

Added Nov 28, 2018 at 03:54PM EST by Matt.

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Google Dragonfly is the name for a Google-made prototype search engine designed for the China that complied with the Chinese state's internet censorship laws. The search engine has been the source of considerable criticism from the media, the United States government and internally by Google employees, due to privacy and free speech concerns.


Following a December 2017 meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, Google began work on a search engine that would follow the guidelines of the Chinese state internet censorship rules. The search engine, code-named "Dragonfly," would blacklist certain websites and search terms. The proposed search engine would be follow the guidelines of the Chinese government, outlawing search terms that the government believes may inspire political dissent. These terms include "democracy," "human rights" and "student protest." [1][2] The search engine would mark the first time in a decade that Google would work in China. Dragonfly would be an app for the Android mobile operating system.



On August 28th, a coalition of 14 human rights and democracy organizations, which included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights in China and more, sent letter to Google's CEO demanding that the company cancel Dragonfly. They wrote, "If Google’s position has indeed changed, then this must be stated publicly, together with a clear explanation of how Google considers it can square such a decision with its responsibilities under international human rights standards and its own corporate values. Without these clarifications, it is difficult not to conclude that Google is now willing to compromise its principles to gain access to the Chinese market."[3]

On October 4th, Vice President Mike Pence stated,[4] "Google should immediately end development of the “Dragonfly” app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers."

Later that month, on October 15th, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said of Dragonfly, "t's very early. We don't know whether we could or would do this in China, but we felt it was important for us to explore. We wanted to learn what it would look like if Google were in China," Pichai said. "So that's what we built internally. If Google were to operate in China, what would it look like?" He claimed that censors would block less than 1% of searches.[5]

Letter from Google Employees

On November 27th, 2018, a number of Google employees published a letter of dissent on Medium,[6] urging Google to "drop Dragonfly." They wrote:

We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google’s effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.


Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn’t alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.

The letter was signed by more than 100 employees in 24 hours. On Medium, the letter received more than 19,000 reactions.


On July 16th, 2019, at a Senate Judiciary Committee, Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice president of public policy, announced that the Dragonfly project had been shut down, telling the committee that the project has been "terminated."

When pressed about Google's business in China, Bhatia continued, "We have no plans to launch Search in China and there is no work being undertaken on such a project."

That day, Senator Josh Hawley posted a video of him questioning Bhatia. The post received more than 34,000 views in one week (shown below).


On September 14th, 2018, The Intercept[2] reported that Dragonfly would link searches to users' personal phone numbers. The use of such technology would make the monitoring of users web behavior easier.

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Top Comments


I agree that it should be dropped honestly. Enabling China with it's censorship is just gonna fuel it further, especially when it comes from the intention of making money out of them. It's probably super tempting, considering the population of China, but you have more than enough money, and a global market, surely you can afford to not be greedy this one time in order to not further fuck with the Chinese population. They have their own censored search engines and everything, but there's no reason to add another to pile.


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