Campaigners declare victory as Google confirms it has no plans to launch Project Dragonfly

Sonamtso from Students for a Free Tibet
Sonamtso from Students for a Free Tibet
Sonamtso from Students for a Free Tibet
24th June 2019

Google confirms it has no plans to launch Project Dragonfly in China at its annual shareholders meeting in San Francisco

Google has confirmed it has no plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China after campaigners confronted the company at its annual shareholder meeting in San Francisco on Thursday.

Sonamtso, a Tibetan campaigner and communications director for Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) questioned Google on behalf of a coalition of groups who have been fighting against the launch of a censored search engine for the Chinese market called Project Dragonfly.

In response, Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs at Google confirmed that the company no longer has plans to launch the censored search engine. However, he stopped short of completely ruling out future collaboration with the Chinese government.

The confirmation that the plans have been halted follows similar statements from Google CEO Sundar Pinchai who said last weekend that a censorship free internet would be an important condition for operating in China.

The news has caused Free Tibet and other groups behind the campaign to declare victory, although they stated that they would continue to monitor future developments.

Other groups that worked with Free Tibet included the International Tibet Network and Tibet Action Institute, as well as the World Uyghur Congress  and consumer campaigners SumOfUs.

Project Dragonfly would have seen Google block search terms like “human rights” and “Tibet”, in compliance with the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s laws on censorship. It would also have seen Google forced to comply with China's cyber security laws, including the requirement that users’ data and personal details are stored and made accessible to the security services.

“After months of hard work, we are pleased to hear Google confirm that it has no plans to offer ‘Project Dragonfly’ in China," John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Free Tibet said after Thursday’s meeting.

“The Chinese Communist Party were never going to allow Google to reestablish itself in China without compromising everything positive about the Internet… The secretive nature of the project suggests that on some level the company’s executives knew this.”

 

Google Shareholders Meeting, San Francisco. 19 June 2019.
Google Shareholders Meeting, San Francisco. 19 June 2019.

Campaigners confronted Google at its shareholder meeting after getting no reply to four letters sent to CEO Sundar Pichai raising concerns about ‘Dragonfly’ and its possible impact on the safety of Tibetans, Uyghurs and Chinese dissidents.

In her statement to Google executives and shareholders at the company meeting on Thursday, Sonamtso said, “I come from a country where people are imprisoned for using search terms that the Chinese government doesn’t like… These human rights violations are real and Google must not be complicit.”

“You have violated the trust that your customers place in you, and that is bad for shareholder value. Google’s willingness to collude with the government of China sets an extremely dangerous precedent for internet freedom around the world.”

Many Google employees also publicly fought against the project and Free Tibet welcomes Google’s decision to halt it.

Jones said, “We will keep watch for future developments [with Google’s plan to enter the Chinese market], but for the moment, it’s a time to celebrate.”

Free Tibet and SFT outside Google HQ London
Free Tibet and SFT outside Google HQ London