Google denies it's still working on censored China search engine

Employees reportedly found code that suggests Google is still trying to get Project Dragonfly off the ground.

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Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
2 min read
Sundar Pichai

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

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  Google on Tuesday denied a report that work continues on Project Dragonfly, a censored search engine for China.

"As we've said for many months, we have no plans to launch Search in China and there is no work being undertaken on such a project," a Google spokesperson said in an email. "Team members have moved to new projects."

This comes after a group of unnamed Google employees reportedly found evidence that Dragonfly isn't dead. The group spotted a batch of code associated with the search engine, according to a report Monday from The Intercept. There were reportedly 500 changes to the code in December and more than 400 changes between January and February. Employees also found about 100 workers still listed under Project Dragonfly's budget, according to the report.

After intense criticism, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said last October he wasn't sure if Dragonfly would ever launch, and the project was reportedly shut down.

Project Dragonfly has raised more than a few eyebrows over the past year. After learning about the project last August, 1,000 employees protested and some quit. Employees teamed up with Amnesty International in November to send Pichai a letter demanding the project be canceled. Some thought that continuing the work would make Google complicit in China's oppression.

Details continued to come to light about the project, like connecting searches to phone numbers, which would allow the government to track users. Dragonfly even grabbed the White House's attention last October. Vice President Mike Pence told Google to immediately stop working on the project. 

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