Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Google is developing a censored search engine for China


Last year, Google said that its second innings will resolve around Artificial Intelligence.

As The Intercept reports, a small team within Google have been working on a project called Dragonfly since the spring of 2017.

"We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered-combined with attempts over the a year ago to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger-had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn", the company wrote in a public statement at the time.

Between 2006 and 2010, Google actually ran a censored version of its search engine in China.

The Chinese government maintains strict control over what its people can access online.

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There was no guarantee the project would result in Google search returning to China.

In a move human rights groups are warning could have grave implications for internet freedom across the globe, Google is reportedly preparing to launch a "censored version" of its search engine in China that will automatically blacklist terms and websites related to peaceful dissent, free expression, and democracy.

Amnesty International urged Google to "change course".

Separately, a Chinese official with knowledge of the plans said that Google has been in contact with authorities at the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) about a modified search program.

We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement... The search service will initially be accessible exclusively through the Android app.

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Depending on when the Chinese government approves the "toned down" Google, the app could launch anytime in the next 6-9 months.

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 USA, according to the report.

Google did operate in the country from 2006 to 2010, when it also agreed to the local censorship laws, facing harsh criticism from United States officials. Earlier past year, Chinese internet regulators authorised the Google Translate app for smartphones. If the project goes through, the Mountain View company will bring its search back to China for the first time.

Google "faces an uphill battle in getting users who are now very accustomed to Baidu to switch", said Mr Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

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