During Wired's 25th anniversary summit, it was confirmed that Google's Project Dragonfly is a real thing. CEO Sundar Pichai confirmed that efforts are in the early stages and that the company wanted to experiment with how a censored Chinese search app would function.
In August, a whistleblower revealed the plans for a censored Chinese Google search app codenamed Project Dragonfly. The leak revealed that the search blocked specific websites like Wikipedia and BBC News. Later reports shared that the app would potentially attach individual searches to phone numbers as well. CNBC reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged the existence of an internal project for the Chinese market and spoke on the company's approach to it.
"We wanted to learn what it would look like if Google were in China, so that's what we built internally," Pichai said on stage at Wired's 25th anniversary summit on Monday. "If Google would operate in China, what would it look like? What queries would we be able to serve? It turns out we'd be able to serve well over 99 percent of queries and there are many, many areas where we would provide information better than what's available."
Google previously withdrew service from China in 2010 because of censorship concerns and cyberattacks, but Pichai hopes to find a balance of some kind. He spoke of an instance where Google could fill a void, hopefuly preventing situations like when a college student died after finding "distorted" information for cancer treatment online.
"Things like that weigh heavily on us," Pichai said. "So we want to balance that with what conditions would be. We are very early — we don't know whether we could or would do this in China, but we felt it was important for us to explore. I take a long-term view on this and I think it's important for us, given how many users there are, to think hard about this problem."
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