Google CEO Sundar Pinchai has said a separate, censored version of its search engine for the Chinese market has undergone several successful internal tests.
The comments are the first time Google has officially confirmed it is working on the search engine, dubbed Project Dragonfly, which has been criticised heavily by human rights organisations.
Pinchai defended the decision of working on a search engine which will censor any results critical of the Chinese government by saying providing some information is better than providing no information at all.
“We are compelled by our mission [to] provide information to everyone, and [China is] 20 percent of the world’s population,” the Google CEO said during the Wired25 conference, as reported by the organiser, Wired.
“People don’t understand fully, but you’re always balancing a set of values,” he continued, adding that the company will try to provide information in any market it enters.
“But we also follow the rule of law in every country,” hinting at censoring search queries that the Chinese government deems harmful to its citizens.
Pinchai did not confirm yet that the search engine would actually be deployed in China, but instead said so far Project Dragonfly has only been an internal project.
During the conference, the Google CEO also defended the company’s plans by saying that entering the Chinese market would serve them better results for things like cancer treatment.
“There are many, many areas where we would provide information better than what’s available. Today people either get fake cancer treatments or they actually get useful information,” he said.
The project was made public in August, when worried Google employees took internal documents to the press.
Following the revelation, more than a thousand Google employees signed a letter criticising the company’s plan to launch a heavily censored version of its search engine.
Human rights organisations and activists expressed their worry over Google’s plans when they were shared earlier last month.
Amnesty International called it “a dark day for the internet” if Google decided to push through its plans.
In 2006, the search engine was introduced to Chinese internet users, but after many quarrels with the Chinese government, it moved its servers to Hong Kong, which has fewer restrictions on the internet.
However, eventually, Google pulled out of China completely in 2010 after several large-scale attacks on the company purportedly by the Chinese government.
The Chinese internet is heavily monitored and censored by the government, removing any results that it considers dangerous to its rule.
This includes any mention of democracy, events like the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, the Falun Gong spiritual movement and images making fun of China’s leader Xi Jinping.
Many other services, including some international news agencies, Twitter, Facebook and Google services like Gmail and Google Drive, are also blocked in China.