Facing backlash from employees for its reported plan to enter China with a censored version of its search engine, Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed them in an internal meeting and informed that the project, called Dragonfly, was at an exploratory stage, the media reported.
Pichai also addressed the controversy surrounding the secrecy of the project, BuzzFeed News reported late on Thursday.
"I think there are a lot of times when people are in exploratory stages where teams are debating and doing things, so sometimes being fully transparent at that stage can cause issues," the Google CEO was quoted as saying.
The news about Google's plan to build a censored search engine in China broke earlier this month when The Intercept reported that the search platform would blacklist "sensitive queries" about topics including politics, free speech, democracy, human rights and peaceful protest.
This triggered an outrage among some Google staff who complained of lack of transparency within the company.
Over 1,400 employees reportedly signed a petition demanding more insight into the project.
At the company meeting on Thursday, Pichai said that Google has been "very open about our desire to do more in China," and that the team "has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now" and "exploring many options", CNBC reported.
While expressing interest in continuing to expand the company's services in China, Pichai told the employees that the company was "not close" to launching a search product there and that whether it would -- or could -- "is all very unclear", the CNBC report said.
Google had earlier launched a search engine in China in 2006, but pulled the service out of the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and block websites.