‘Project Dragonfly’: Google's rumoured censor-friendly launch in China

It’s common knowledge that Google, as present as it is in our daily lives, does not enjoy the same ubiquity in China, and hasn’t done for eight years.

Leaked meeting minutes from the corporation, however, suggest that could be about to change.

Codenamed ‘Project Dragonfly’, the search giant is allegedly in the midst of a bid to launch in China in an iteration that would play ball with Beijing’s hardline censorship policies.

According to a transcript from a meeting led by Google’s search engine chief, Ben Gomes, ambitions for Dragonfly were to reach “the next billion” users and launch within “six to nine months”.

Gomes said that China was “arguably the most interesting market in the world today”, according to the transcript published yesterday by The Intercept, said to have taken place on July 18.

“It’s not just a one-way street. China will teach us things that we don’t know,” Gomes told staff. “We have built a set of hacks and we have kept them.

"Overall I just want to thank you guys for all the work you have put in.

"We have to be focused on what we want to enable,"  Gomes says. "And then when the opening happens we are ready for it."

According to the South China Morning Post, Project Dragonfly has previously been reported as the codename for a censored search app specifically for the Chinese market.  

Blacklisting any websites related to human rights, democracy, religion and any other issues deemed sensitive by the Chinese government, the country’s internet censorship laws are considered the most extensive and advanced in the world.

In the meeting, Gomes reportedly acknowledged that trade wars between the US and China were causing difficulties in negotiations with Communist Party officials in Beijing, whose approval Google would need to launch the search engine.

Re-launching in China would open up a vast audience and a matched opportunity to scale its advertising operations globally, competing with Asia’s ad tech giants such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.

Away from China, however, the move - which would be contributing to China’s hardline stance on free speech - could be seen as a far cry from the search giant’s original “don’t be evil” policy.

The reveal of the leaked transcript also comes following a reveal of Google’s efforts to cover up a Google+ data breach, which resulted in potential vulnerabilities to private data attached to 500K users.

As noted by Business Insider, side-by-side, these revelations set a worrying trend of a very powerful company acting in secrecy, and despite its efforts to appear the opposite, unethically.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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