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Google Shuts Down ‘Censored’ Chinese Search Project

Google had earlier launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Facing widespread criticism over its “censored” Search engine for the Chinese market, Google has reportedly shut down a data collection system that was key to develop the search project code-named “Dragonfly”.

According to a report in The Intercept on Tuesday, the move comes after hundreds of Google employees raised internal complaints that the project had been kept secret from them.

The report found that Google employees, working on the Dragonfly project, “had been using a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored search engine”.

The website www.265.com is a Chinese-language web directory service which Google bought in 2008 from a billionaire Chinese entrepreneur.

“265.com provides its Chinese visitors with news updates, information about financial markets, horoscopes, and advertisements for cheap flights and hotels,” said the report.

“As The Intercept reported in August, it appears that Google has used 265.com as a honeypot for market research, storing information about Chinese users’ searches before sending them along to Baidu,” the report added.

Google engineers working on Dragonfly obtained large datasets showing queries that Chinese people were entering into the 265.com search engine.

“Members of Google’s privacy team, however, were kept in the dark about the use of 265.com,” said the report, quoting sources.

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Google shuts down ‘censored’ Chinese Search project: Report. VOA

Now, the teams working on Dragonfly are no longer gathering search queries from mainland China.

“Significantly, several groups of engineers have now been moved off of Dragonfly completely, and told to shift their attention away from China to instead work on projects related to India, Indonesia, Russia, the Middle East and Brazil,” the report claimed.

Google was yet to comment on the report.

Last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told a US House Judiciary Committee that the company had “no plans” to launch a search product in China.

In November, Google employees wrote in an open letter to the company that their “opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be”.

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“Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions,” they wrote.

Google had earlier launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites. (IANS)

Next Story

US President Donald Trump Again Slams Google for Manipulating 2016 Election

Trump and fellow Republicans have accused tech giants including Google of bias against conservative viewpoints

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President Donald Trump listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 16, 2019, in Washington. VOA

US President Donald Trump has once again lashed out at Google for manipulating millions of votes in the 2016 presidential elections in favour of then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election! This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought,” Trump tweeted late Monday.

However, the report Trump mentioned in his tweet was published in 2017 that described there was a bias in Google and other search engines during the run-up to the 2016 elections.

Trump’s tweet citing an old research paper also tagged conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch with his tweet, “perhaps asking them to investigate. It’s also unclear who he thinks should sue the company”, reports TechCrunch.

In a statement, Google said: “This researcher’s inaccurate claim has been debunked since it was made in 2016. As we stated then, we have never re-ranked or altered search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Clinton also responded to Trump: “The debunked study you’re referring to was based on 21 undecided voters. For context that’s about half the number of people associated with your campaign who have been indicted.”

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A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

The paper was published by Robert Epstein, a psychology researcher who works for the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in June.

The CNBC reported that “Trump’s tweet appears to refer to documents leaked to conservative group Project Veritas, but the documents do not appear to contain any outright allegation of vote manipulation or attempts to bias the election”.

Earlier this month, Trump criticized Google CEO Sundar Pichai for alleged ties to election tampering and China’s military.

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“@sundarpichai of Google was in the Oval Office working very hard to explain how much he liked me, what a great job the Administration is doing, that Google was not involved with China’s military, that they didn’t help Crooked Hillary over me in the 2016 Election,” he had tweeted.

Trump and fellow Republicans have accused tech giants including Google of bias against conservative viewpoints. (IANS)