Google Is Planning a Censored Version of Its Search Engine for China

Ruben Fields
August 4, 2018

It's after it abandoned the market 8 years ago on censorship concerns.

The censorship will apply to Google image search, automatic spell check and suggested search features. The plans for a new search engine include Android apps that would allow users to search Google without being exposed to information that the government deems unacceptable. The Chinese social media website Weibo is one of the most popular online platforms in the country - that platform blocks information topics such as "anti-communism", authoritarian related novels such as George Orwell's 1984, and much more.

Work on Dragonfly is said to have accelerated after a meeting between Google's CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official last December, according to The Intercept.

The tech giant had already come under fire this year from thousands of employees who signed a petition against a $10-million contract with the USA military, which was not renewed.

Google had previously complied with censorship controls starting in 2006 as it sought a toehold in the booming Chinese economy.

Having a native search app for those phones that Chinese users can access would represent a massive boon for the tech giant.

Fast forward eight years, and Chinese internet companies are some of the largest on the planet, with much of their success forged on an uneven home playing field on which western companies have been unable to compete.

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Google, which has hundreds of people working in China, recently launched its Artificial Intelligence (AI) lab in the country. A final version could be rolled out in six to nine months, depending on when it's approved by Chinese officials, The Intercept reports.

Google said in response to a request for comment that it doesn't "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", Cotton said in a statement.

In addition to censoring sites such as the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Wikipedia, the Chinese authorities also censor mentions of books that portray governments like China's in a poor light, such as 1984 and Animal Farm.

"The biggest search engine in the world obeying the censorship in China is a victory for the Chinese government - it sends a signal that nobody will bother to challenge the censorship any more", Poon said.

Google and other U.S. internet giants such as Facebook have made attempts to enter the lucrative Chinese market where the Great Firewall blocks access to their apps, website and services.

In 2010, the company announced it would cease all operations in China, explaining it could not be involved in censorship. What is surprising, however, is that Google, back in 2010, withdrew its services from China after it discovered a cyberattack from within the country that targeted it and dozens of other companies.

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