Former Google CEO defends company's censored search engine plans

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in 2012 Credit: Loic Le Meur
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in 2012 Credit: Loic Le Meur
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in 2012 Credit: Loic Le Meur
16th May 2019

Eric Schmidt told the BBC that an initiative like Project Dragonfly could help China "be more open"

The former CEO of Google has defended the company’s plan to make a censored version of its search engine for use in China which if rolled out would block results like 'human rights' and 'Tibet'.

In an interview with BBC Newsnight on Monday Eric Schmidt said the plans to build the search engine, codenamed Project Dragonfly could “help change China to be more open,” adding that there are “many many benefits to interacting… with China.”

In August last year The Intercept revealed Google had developed a prototype of the censored search engine which would remove content the Chinese government deemed sensitive.

Following employee protests and pressure from human rights groups the current CEO, Sundar Pichai told US Congress in December last year that Google had “no plans to launch Search in China,”

However, Google employees have since suggested work is still being done on code associated with Dragonfly.

On Monday when asked to clarify whether Project Dragonfly has been abandoned, Schmidt told Newsnight that he “couldn’t say.”

Schmidt said that he had not been involved in decisions over Dragonfly’s future, but that he had fought against Google’s 2010 move to pull out of the Chinese search market following concerns over ethics and security.

Questioned on the secrecy of the project the ex-Google boss said there is a culture of transparency at the company and that “certainly the people who were building all these products knew about it.”

A Google employee with knowledge of Dragonfly was angered by Schmidt’s comments and has since told The Intercept that they were “bullshit.”

Tibetans, Uyghurs, human rights groups and technology experts have all raised concerns that, if rolled out, Project Dragonfly could make Google complicit in the Chinese government's censorship of the Internet for users in the country.

Since last autumn, Free Tibet and its partners have been running a campaign, aiming to put pressure on Google to commit to abandoning Project Dragonfly.


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