Project Dragonfly - what Google would look like in China

Google CEO confirms secretive Chinese search engine project

The proposal has drawn criticism from employees and human rights advocates.

"It turns out we would be able to serve well over 99 percent of the (search) queries", he said onstage in a question-and-answer session.

Pichai said that the result of its investigation was that not only would Google be able to serve well over 99% of queries, but that there are several areas where Google could provide better information than what is now available in China.

"It's 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", Pichai said at the Wired25 conference in San Francisco. "Given how important the market is and how many users there are, we feel obliged to think hard about this problem and take a longer-term view".

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has for the first time gone public about his company's China-centric plans and has stressed on its need to re-enter the Asian nation that has the world's largest population, a media report said.

"We wanted to learn what it would look like if Google were in China", Pichai said.

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Google had launched a search engine in China in 2006 but pulled the plug in 2010. "So that's what we built internally".

Google found that Chinese government censors would block less than 1 per cent of users' searches, CNN quoted Pichai as saying.

Pichai also addressed Google's decision to withdraw from a bid for a major Pentagon cloud computing project, saying the company was not opposed to working with the military but did not want to be part of automated weapons. While that sounds good on paper, considering the amount of internet users in china, more than 800 million, that translates to hundreds of thousands of searches that will be denied. "Today people either get fake cancer treatments or they actually get useful information", he said.

The US Congress and the White House have also expressed disapproval, calling the potential product a threat to democracy and a way to "strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers", according to US Vice-President Mike Pence.

Pichai's comments on Monday suggested that Dragonfly was an experiment to see if Google could operate a search engine in China without violating government restrictions but he underlined that Google was committed to its values of freedom of expression, user privacy and the rule of law. "But even on this particular issue it's not what the employees said, its more the debate within the AI community", Pichai said.

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