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Google is developing a censored search engine for China

04 August 2018

Google isn't just reported to be working on a censored search engine for the Chinese market-according to a new article from The Information, it's also developing a censored news aggregation app for China.

According to The Intercept: "Google's Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the so-called Great Firewall of China".

The decision to relaunch the censored search engine is a significant move away from Google's previous policy of publicly rejecting censorship by the Chinese government. The Information reports (paywall) that a competitor to AI-powered news app Toutiao has also been under development by Google "since previous year", and that, of course, it would "comply with the country's strict censorship laws".

Although talks between Google and the Chinese government are believed to be ongoing, they may be overshadowed by the developing trade conflict between the United States of America and China, which shows little sign of abating at the moment. The Chinese government has some strict rules about internet access in their country and project Dragonfly is being made to address those rules.

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The Google project, codenamed Dragonfly, has been in development since Spring of 2017, and was accelerated in December 2017, following a meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and top Chinese government officials.

It came on Google's table in the spring of previous year. "How enabling mass politically-directed censorship of (AI-enabled) search isn't a violation of Article 19 & in turn a violation of Google's pledge not to build tech that "contravenes widely accepted principles of.human rights" is a mystery indeed". "I'm committed to engaging more in China", he said.

The ongoing trade dispute between President Trump and China's government further complicates the prospect of Google re-entering China's market. In the Reuters report an unnamed official from China's cyberspace regulator confirms that Google and the regulator are discussing a modified search program, but added that the app is very unlikely to be launched this year.

Google said in response to a request for comment that it doesn'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 U.S. tech giants willing to tailor their products and services in order to gain access to the massive Chinese market.

China has also seen increased affluence among its consumers, which are quick to embrace innovative new technologies and services. If the project goes through, the Mountain View company will bring its search back to China for the first time.

The project is now codenamed as "Dragonfly" and would bring Google Search to China in the form of an Android app.

The app would censor search queries and results in compliance with China's Golden Shield Project, better known in the West at the Great Firewall of China. What is to stop Facebook and Twitter to approach the Chinese government again, and agreeing to send an error message every time one tries to tweet about, or write a post about an activist like Liu Xiaobo?

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A Google spokeswoman told Business Insider that the company was already doing business with the Chinese.

Google is developing a censored search engine for China