Google has “terminated” China’s controversial censored search engine, codenamed Project Dragonfly, a top executive has said.
The project, which a former Google staffer had called “disturbing”, was shelved last December, but suggestions continued to circulate that the tech giant was still running it.
Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice president of global government affairs and public policy, provided official confirmation yesterday, however.
“We have terminated Project Dragonfly,” he told the US Senate’s Judiciary Committee.
His comments were the first official public confirmation that Google has ended the scheme, according to Buzzfeed.
Dragonfly started in early 2017, according to The Intercept, and proceeded at pace after Google chief executive Sundar Pichai met a Chinese government official.
Later Google presented a list of thousands of banned websites, such as Wikipedia and the BBC, to purge from Dragonfly search results.
However, the project began to fall apart last year when Dragonfly developers were barred from using data from Google’s Beijing-based site 265.com.
However, Google did not go so far as to say Dragonfly was dead late last year.
Pichai told the Judiciary Committee in December that work on the project was simply “limited”.
It is far from the only controversial project Google has got involved with in recent years.
Last summer the tech giant vowed to end its involvement with a military drone initiative dubbed Project Maven, designed to use AI to improve drone targeting on battlefields.
However, in March the company appeared to admit some level of ongoing involvement.
Emails seen by The Intercept said an anonymous tech firm would take over from Google, but use Google’s cloud services to support its efforts.
Meanwhile US tech billionaire Peter Thiel has accused the company of working with the Chinese military.
President Donald Trump said his administration would “take a look” at the claims.
Just this week Meredith Whittaker, who led staff walkouts across the globe over the tech giant’s sexual harassment policy, left the company in the wake of allegations of a backlash against organisers.
Whittaker had said her role would be “changed dramatically” and was told to down tools on her work on AI ethics.