Google is still considering whether to launch a censored version of its search product in China, CEO Sundar Pichai said Monday.
“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.
The company publicly confirmed the existence of the controversial project during a Senate committee hearing in late September. Codenamed “Dragonfly” within Google, the project was first revealed by The Intercept in August. Google had been working on the project in secret, but after the reports about its existence emerged, more than 1,000 Google employees signed a letter asking for more transparency, according to a New York Times report.
On Monday, Pichai described Dragonfly as an exploratory internal project. He said the company’s absence in China — a country with 20% of the world’s population — weighed heavily on Google, which has a mission to bring information “to everyone.”
“We wanted to learn what it would look like if Google were in China,” Pichai said. “So that’s what we built internally. If Google were to operate in China, what would it look like?”
Google found that Chinese government censors would block less than 1% of users’ searches, according to Pichai.