TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Google confirmed this week that the “Dragonfly” censored search engine project designed in partnership with the Chinese Communist Party for use in China has been officially “terminated.”
The statement from Google came shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump publicly considered asking the U.S. attorney general to investigate Google for alleged ties to the Chinese military as well as possible treason, charges leveled at the company by tech tycoon Peter Thiel earlier in the week.
“Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government.” @foxandfriends A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2019
Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference on Sunday (July 14), Peter Theil suggested that Google may have been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence. He also suggested that many of the staff at Google may be more sympathetic toward the Chinese Communist Party than the interests of the United States.
Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing just hours after Trump’s Tuesday tweet, Google Vice President of Public Policy Karan Bhatia claimed that the Dragonfly project had been abandoned. Endgadget reports that a spokesperson for the company also confirmed the termination of the project.
The following day, a former White House cyber-security chief, Richard Clarke, agreed with Theil that Google’s relationship with China in some areas, notably AI, was troubling. Clarke said it may be an issue that warrants investigation out of concern for national security, reports CNBC.
Despite assurances that the Dragonfly project has been terminated, there are reasons to be skeptical of statements from Google given past behavior related to the project and its dealings with China. When the project was first exposed by The Intercept in 2018, Google denied any knowledge of it.
The tech giant later admitted the Dragonfly suite project was under development but claimed it had been shelved due to backlash from employees and human rights organizations. Later in March 2019, it was discovered that development of the program was still ongoing.
As recently as May, the Google rebuffed requests from shareholders at an annual meeting to allow an internal review of the company and more oversight which might have led to more public knowledge of Google’s dealings with China.