Google allegedly working on censored search engine for Chinese market
04 August, 2018, 17:49
One of the largest and fastest-growing Internet audiences in the world, China is tempting for US technology companies such as Google and Facebook, which have been making overtures to Beijing.
Some of Google's own employees were reportedly not happy about the prospect of offering a censored search to appease China's government. Over the years, rumors of the Google Play Store returning to China have emerged multiple times, only to come to nothing in the end.
Google's new search engine, reportedly codenamed Dragonfly, will block terms related to religion and human rights, both areas of some controversy in China.
A Google spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the company "does not comment on speculation about future plans".
"Google claims to value freedom and one hopes Google will put its corporate principles and America first, ahead of Chinese cash", he added. Accordingly, Google started to soften its rhetoric and tone on China within a couple of years after the Gmail hacking.
Google's main search platform has been blocked in China since 2010, but it has been attempting to make new inroads into China.
Sources with knowledge of the project told The Intercept that development of Dragonfly sped up after Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with a high-level Chinese government official last December. Two different versions of the app called "Maotai" and "Longfei" have been developed and is pending approval from government officials.
Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with human rights group Amnesty International, stated that Google's sudden willingness to work with regimes that censor information could be a "big disaster for the information age".
Google is said to have created a custom Android app that has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government.
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"Google has been working on the app since previous year and had been meeting with Chinese regulators to discuss the project", said the report, citing sources.
In 2016, after taking over as Google's new CEO the previous October, Pinchai said at a conference in California, "I care about servicing users globally in every corner".
The internet in China is heavily censored, with the country's so-called Great Firewall stopping citizens from accessing many foreign websites.
Although China's internet penetration is just over 50 per cent, its sheer scale means that there are three times the number of smartphone users and 11 times the number of mobile payment users in China than in the U.S., according to the report.
China's internet censorship laws are well-known.
- Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) August 1, 2018 If Google goes through with this and launches a censored search engine in China, effectively normalizing and Americanizing authoritarian censorship, this will be the Waterloo in the global battle for a free internet as a norm.
When Google pulled out of China in 2010, co-founder Sergey Brin voiced strong objections to any form of censorship having been born in the Soviet Union.
Reuters is citing a China Securities Daily report that debunks the rumors of Google returning to China.
A women polishes a dais before the Google global Chinese name launch on April 12, 2006 in Beijing, China.
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