Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Google to launch censored search engine "Dragonfly" in China

Google to launch censored search engine

"Documents seen by The Intercept, marked 'Google confidential, ' say that Google's Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall".

Even if the censored search engine is not approved, Google seems unlikely to cease its efforts to expand into more and more corners of the Chinese market. Now, it appears the fight is over, and Google is giving in with a program codenamed Dragonfly, which includes the two reported apps.

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

The project - codenamed Dragonfly - has been underway since spring of a year ago, and accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google's CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official. And it looks like at least one Google employee familiar with the plans related to China is willing to speak up.

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". The Chinese government is yet to give final approval, The Intercept said.

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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.

Google did operate in the country from 2006 to 2010, when it also agreed to the local censorship laws, facing harsh criticism from U.S. officials.

The Android app could launch in six to nine months as part of a joint venture with an unnamed partner company, likely in China.

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.

Google responded to the report in a statement to The Verge saying, "we don't comment on speculation about future plans".

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The prospect of Google returning to China is in line with the trend of several United States tech giants willing to tailor their products and services in order to gain access to the massive Chinese market. In order for it to function there, Google would have to agree to adopt the Chinese government's censorship rules and the company has refused to do that for many years.

In the company's absence, Baidu Inc. has strengthened its grip on search in China while Microsoft Corp.'s Bing operates in the country by censoring subjects and words.

Recently, Google removed its long-time unofficial motto, "don't be evil," from its corporate code of conduct.

It could make sense for the tech giant to reintroduce its search engine in China, considering the country is now the biggest internet market in the world.

Google had a similar version of its search engine available in China between 2006 and 2010, but eventually made a decision to retreat from the country following harsh criticism from the United States for its compliance with the government's censorship.

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Google's main service is covered by China's "Great Firewall", which prevents access to non-compliant sites.

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