Google has terminated its widely covered “Project Dragonfly” to build a search giant in China, Google Vice President of Public Policy Karan Bhatia told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, in response to a question from Republican Senator Josh Hawley about its potential and planned business ventures on Chinese soil, BuzzFeed News reported.
In response to a request for comment from various media outlets, Google pointed to statements that it issued in March 2019: “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. Team members have moved to new projects”.
The remarks came days after billionaire investor Peter Thiel reportedly criticised the Alphabet-owned giant and its ties to China at the national Conservatism Conference on Sunday, calling on the FBI and CIA to investigate Google for allegedly aiding the Chinese military, according to Axios.
Thiel, a Facebook board member and PayPal co-founder who has been supporting Trump's campaign, is reported to have called on Google to answer whether “senior management consider itself to have been thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence” and whether this is why it has “engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military” rather than with the Pentagon.
Thiel’s comments were taken note of by POTUS Donald Trump, who brought them up on Tuesday pledging to scrutinise Google.
“Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason,” Mr. Trump said in the tweet, adding “The Trump Administration will take a look!”
“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) 16 июля 2019 г.
Several hours later, addressing reporters at a White House cabinet meeting, Mr. Trump got back to the subject saying he is encouraging Attorney General William Barr to look into the allegation and see “if there’s any truth to it.”
Tech giant Google has never provided details on the controversial project codenamed “Dragonfly”, being vague about it ever since it was first revealed in August last year.
Leaked documents pointed to the fact that the Chinese state search app would automatically map websites blocked by the country’s so-called Great Firewall and simply pull them from search results. Reports also emerged that the company’s engineers were being prepared to comply with the Chinese government’s security rules so as to avoid being blocked.
Google employees protested the project in summer 2018, while in September a Google scientist resigned over it. A month later, in October, Vice President Mike Pence called on Google to shelve the search project, and in December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was grilled at a Congressional hearing.
Earlier, Google withdrew a variety of its services from China amid concerns of increased surveillance by the country’s government. However, in the past few years reports have emerged of its comeback as the company has seen its rivals take over the vast Chinese technological market.