China: RSF and coalition of NGOs demand Google abandon Project Dragonfly

After evasive answers from Google CEO Sundar Pichai before US Congress, concern over the Dragonfly 'censorship engine' has only heightend

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before US Congress

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before US Congress (AP photo)

TAIPEI (RSF) -- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as a member of a coalition of 60 NGOs wrote to Google's CEO on Dec. 11 demanding he abandon the development of a censored search engine for the Chinese market.

Google's lack of concrete responses to questions raised about its censored search engine project for the Chinese market, named Dragonfly (Libellule), led Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to join a coalition of 60 human rights organizations to ask Google CEO Sundar Pichai to abandon this project. The publication of this letter comes as Pichai testifies before the US Congress.

"In addition to being totally opaque and contrary to the values that Google relies on, the Dragonfly project offers no guarantee of data confidentiality," said Cédric Alviani, director of RSF’s East Asia Office. "Beijing collects massive quantities of personal data for purposes of censorship and surveillance, including against journalists and their sources. "

In late August, 2018, RSF along with a group of NGOs first approached the CEO of Google to urge the California firm to not be complicit in Chinese censorship. So far, Google's senior vice-president for global affairs, Kent Walker, gave an elusive response, echoing catchphrases such as the need to "provide access to information to people around the world." He also claimed the project was only at the "exploration stage," an assertion contradicted by several internal sources.

In early August, an internal leak from Google staff revealed that Google created the project to try to regain access to the Chinese market, which it left in 2010 to not give in to Chinese censorshipdemands. The management initially called these revelations "speculative" before recognizing the existence of the project at a hearing in the US Senate. In an open letter published on Nov. 27, one hundred Google employees renewed their call for the abandonment of the project.

China ranks near the bottom of RSF’s Freedom of the Press Index: 176 out of 180 countries.

To read the full letter, click here.

Signatory organizations

  • Access Now
  • ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency (MMA)
  • Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
  • Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
  • Amnesty International
  • Article 19
  • Articulo 12 - Son Tus Datos
  • Association for Progressive Communications
  • Asociacion para una Ciudadania Participativa
  • Bolo Bhi
  • Briar Project Bytes for All (B4A)
  • Cartoonists Rights Network, International (CRNI)
  • Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
  • Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  • Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF)
  • Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA)
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Freedom Forum
  • Fundación Datos Protegidos (Chile)
  • Fundacion Internet Bolivia
  • Globe International Center (GIC)
  • Hong Kong Journalists Association
  • Human Rights in China (HRIC)
  • Human Rights First
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC)
  • Independent Journalism Center (IJC)
  • Index on Censorship
  • Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey
  • Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
  • International Campaign for Tibet
  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • International Tibet Network Secretariat
  • Internet Sans Frontières
  • Latin American Observatory of Regulation, Media and Convergence – OBSERVACOM
  • Media Rights Agenda (MRA)
  • Mediacentar Sarajevo
  • NetBlocks
  • Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)
  • New America's Open Technology Institute
  • Norwegian PEN
  • OpenMedia
  • Pacific Island News Association
  • Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
  • PEN International
  • PEN America
  • Privacy International
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • Software Freedom Law Center, India (
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
  • Students for a Free Tibet
  • Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
  • Tibet Action Institute
  • Việt Tân
  • World Uyghur Congress