Google plans China return with censored search engine, report says

Credit        Shutterstock

Credit Shutterstock

The plan, which was criticized by human rights advocates, comes as China has stepped up scrutiny of business dealings involving United States tech firms including Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc amid intensifying trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Some of Google's own employees were reportedly not happy about the prospect of offering a censored search to appease China's government.

It's a reversal of its stance from eight years ago, when Google left China in protest of the country's censorship.

This wouldn't be the first time Google has operated in China.

The project - code-named Dragonfly - has been underway since the spring of 2017, and according to leaked internal documents accessed by Intercept, has accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google's CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official.

Google is planning to launch a new version of its search engine for China that would block some search terms and websites, said a pair of sources.

Google responded to the report in a statement to The Verge saying, "we don't comment on speculation about future plans".

That said, the company has been making slight overtures to the Chinese people.

Google has been heavily restricted in China since 2010. What is to stop Facebook and Twitter to approach the Chinese government again, and agreeing to send an error message every time one tries to tweet about, or write a post about an activist like Liu Xiaobo?

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"We reminded users in China every single day that they are looking at filtered results", said Tian, who worked at Google when the search engine launched.

Google has even demonstrated the service to Chinese government officials, the sources added.

The new app, which has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government and is pending approval, was designed in California, with the help from other global Google teams, the report notes. Poon told The Intercept that if Google launches a censored version of its search engine it will "set a bad precedent" for other companies. This would mark the company's return to both the country and the government's stringent censorship.

This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom.

China already has well-developed Google alternatives, most notably Baidu, a company that has thrived without having to worry about the Silicon Valley giant as a competitor.

The app would censor search queries and results in compliance with China's Golden Shield Project, better known in the West at the Great Firewall of China.

The Great Firewall has meant that Google Search isn't accessible from within China.

Google pulled its search service out of China around 2010 because it didn't want to censor results. Knowing the personal effects that censorship can leave behind, Brin hoped to see a "more open internet", instead of allowing information to be withheld. And Google has apparently changed its mind about censorship.

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