Lawmakers Pressure Google Over “Deeply Troubling” China Censorship Project

 | Ryan Gallagher 08/06/2018 10:35 AM MDT
Credit: Cory M. Grenier -  Flickr

A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators is demanding that Google CEO Sundar Pichai explain the company’s plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.

Since spring 2017, the internet giant has been developing a censored Android search app to launch in the country as part of a secretive project code-named Dragonfly, The Intercept revealed on Wednesday. The app would manipulate search results in accordance with strict censorship rules in China that are mandated by the ruling Communist Party regime, which restricts people’s access to information about political opponents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. The censored Google search has been designed to “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to internal Google documents.

In a letter sent to Pichai on Friday, the six lawmakers called the Google plan “deeply troubling” and said that it “risks making Google complicit in human rights abuses related to China’s rigorous censorship regime.” The letter was led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and also signed by Sens Mark Warner, D-Va., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

The senators write: “It is a coup for the Chinese government and Communist Party to force Google—the biggest search engine in the world—to comply with their onerous censorship requirements, and sets a worrying precedent for other companies seeking to do business in China without compromising their core values.”