The project was reported to have ceased late last year but rumours that it remained active persisted. “We have terminated Project Dragonfly,” Google executive Karan Bhatia told the US Senate Judiciary Committee.
Buzzfeed, which reported the new comments, said it was the first public confirmation that Dragonfly had ended. A spokesman for Google later confirmed to the site that Google currently had no plans to launch search in China and that no work was being done to that end.
Google’s prototype Chinese search engine had previously been labelled “disturbing” by one former employee. Dragonfly had attracted criticism as a potential means through which Chinese authorities could censor web content and monitor citizens’ behaviour online. In late 2018, Google seemed reluctant to confirm that development of the search engine had been completely stopped, despite growing pressure on the firm.
Work on Dragonfly at that point was “limited”, chief executive Sundar Pichai told the US House Judiciary Committee in December. According to documents obtained by investigative news site The Intercept, Dragonfly was launched as a company project in the spring of 2017. The documents also suggested that Google engineers were at one point working on ways to filter out websites – including the BBC and Wikipedia – from search results, based on web censorship in China.