Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Technology | By Russell Knight

Google said to be building censored search engine for return to China

Google said to be building censored search engine for return to China

A day after news leaked that a secret, censored version of Google's search engine for Android phones was under development for the Chinese market, multiple reports have cast doubt on the likelihood of the product ever being released. However, the state-owned Securities Daily cited "relevant departments" as saying reports of the return of Google to the Chinese market were not true. In 2014 and 2015, Google developed a version of its Play app store that only included apps and services approved by the Chinese government, but that hasn't launched.

Offering a censored search engine would reaffirm the growing view that U.S. internet companies are increasingly willing to compromise on their supposed commitment to free speech for a chance to take a bite out of the Chinese market. In a way that Chinese internet users are already accustomed to when using WeChat and Sina Weibo, a search for a banned website on this app would yield results with a note that some "may have been removed due to statutory requirements". The Chinese government has some strict rules about internet access in their country and project Dragonfly is being made to address those rules. It said the project began to progress more quickly following a December meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and a senior Chinese government official.

It came on Google's table in the spring of previous year.

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

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FILE - In this April 28, 2016, file photo, visitors gather at a display booth for Google at the 2016 Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) in Beijing. Google has demonstrated the app to officials from the Chinese government, according to The Intercept and the Times.

The Intercept is reporting that the company is readying a censored version of its search engine in a custom Android app to launch in China.

A Google spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the company "does not comment on speculation about future plans".

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USA internet titans have long struggled with doing business in China, home of a "Great Firewall" that blocks politically sensitive content, such as the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. If the project goes through, the Mountain View company will bring its search back to China for the first time.

That system, sometimes referred to as the Great Firewall, includes the blocking of multiple news and social media websites as well as the many search queries or items the government deems problematic, ranging from religion to issues of human rights abuses in the country. Facebook (FB), which competes with Google for advertising revenue, is also locked out of China.

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

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered - combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web - have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China.

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