Google has denied claims that is it is still secretly working on a censored Chinese search engine.
The Intercept reported that several Google employees had spotted signs that development had continued on Google’s cancelled plans to create search engine apps for China which would censor search results.
In December, Google shut down work on the project following months of controversy over Google seemingly giving in to Chinese internet censorship laws and the departure of several Google employees in protest.
Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said that Google’s decision to create a censored search engine that would filter results in China was “absolutely chilling”.
And Google employee Jack Poulson resigned from the company shortly after the existence of the project to build a censored search engine was revealed, citing his “ethical responsibility.”
The public outcry over the plans prompted Google to cancel the search engine’s development in December and move staff to different projects.
However, several Google employees told The Intercept that they believed work had continued on the project after noticing that the computer code stored inside Google for planned Chinese search apps had been updated thousands of times in January and February.
A Google spokesman said “this speculation is inaccurate. As we’ve said for many months, we have no plans to launch Search in China and there is no work being undertaken on such a project. Team members have moved to new projects.”
Google chief executive Sundar Pichai told Congress last year that “right now there are no plans for us to launch a search product in China … to the extent we approach a position like that, I will be fully transparent, including with policy makers here, and engage and consult widely.”
Google does not currently operate in China after it pulled its service from the country in 2010 following a series of cyberattacks by the Chinese government which were aimed at human rights activists in the country and elsewhere.
The scrapped Google project to re-enter China and gain market share among its 800m internet users was known as Project Dragonfly inside the business.
The project would have seen Google create a custom Android app, with different versions nicknamed “Maotai” and “Longfei”. At its peak, more than 300 employees worked on the project.