Google Planning Censored Search Engine for China


One of the largest and fastest-growing Internet audiences in the world, China is tempting for USA technology companies such as Google and Facebook, which have been making overtures to Beijing.

The news emerged in a piece from The Intercept, which obtained documents about an internal Google project to relaunch a search service in mainland China, complete with government censorship.

Although Google pulled its search engine out of China in 2010, the company has lately displayed more interest in regaining access to the world's largest internet population.

Google is working on a mobile search app that would block certain search terms and allow it to reenter China after exiting eight years ago due to censorship and hacking, according to United States media reports. That year, as the number of Internet users in the country continued to explode, the website boasted close to one-third of search-engine market share in China. However, as TechCrunch points out, similar apps in China, such as Toutiao-which Google is apparently trying to clone here-have at times fallen foul of the country's censors, for promoting "pornographic and vulgar content".

Code-named Dragonfly, this project has reportedly been in the works since the spring season previous year, and apparently started moving quicker after a meeting in December between Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, and a top Chinese government official. The company is developing an engine that will blacklist websites and terms about human rights, democracy, religion and protests - all of them really sensitive topics in China.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on their plans for the future. Government officials have been shown prototypes, which presumably have met with their satisfaction. Accordingly, Google started to soften its rhetoric and tone on China within a couple of years after the Gmail hacking. If approved by the government officials, the app could launch in the next 6 to 9 months.

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Reports also claimed that the highly secretive project is only limited to a handful of high-level Google executives, including Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai.

"It will be a dark day for internet freedom if Google has acquiesced to China's extreme censorship rules to gain market access", was the response to the reports of Amnesty International. This would mark the company's return to both the country and the government's stringent censorship. China is already censoring Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. For example, links to the BBC website and Wikipedia would be removed from the search results, The Intercept said.

Afterall, how can a company turn a blind eye to the 700 million internet users living in China and the potential revenue loss by not able to make money out of their pockets?

Google's strength in mobile would certainly give the company a lead in search and advertising services.

Google is also working on two mobile apps for search named Maotai and Longfei.

A women polishes a dais before the Google global Chinese name launch on April 12, 2006 in Beijing, China.