Monday, 22 October, 2018

Google plans return to China search market with censored app

Report: Google's Plan to Launch Censored Search Engine in China Revealed Google allegedly working on censored search engine for Chinese market
Kayla Schwartz | 04 August, 2018, 12:56

Google has been working on Dragonfly since the spring of 2017 and demonstrated a sanitized version of its search app to Chinese officials, the Intercept reported, citing company documents and unidentified people familiar with the matter.

Some of Google's own employees were reportedly not happy about the prospect of offering a censored search to appease China's government.

It is still in the approval phase from China but it has been given the go-ahead from both Google's CEO Sundar Pichai and an unnamed Chinese government official. Google has more than 88,000 employees. But jumping back into China presents ethical issues for Google (GOOGL), which has long advocated a free and open internet.

Offering a censored search engine would reaffirm the growing view that USA 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.

"This also raises serious questions as to what safeguards Google is putting in place to protect users' privacy", he said. The internet giant was also one of the victims of a sophisticated hack termed "Operation Aurora" which had targeted other high-tech companies as well.

The Intercept reports Google's new app could launch within six to nine months, though The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported separately, citing anonymous sources, that the product is only being tested and may never be deployed.

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Last year, Google said that its second innings will resolve around Artificial Intelligence. "It is impossible to see how such a move is compatible with Google's "Do the right thing" motto, and we are calling on the company to change course".

China has in the past two years imposed increasingly strict rules on foreign companies, including new censorship restrictions.

Not everyone is positive about the potential for Google to return to China. This will ensure that people will not be recommended photos and information banned by the Chinese government. A writer, professor, human rights activist, Nobel Peace Prize victor and dissident, Xiaobo had been an enemy of the Communist regime in China since taking part in the student protests in 1989 - protests that led to the bloody Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Cédric Alviani from Reporters Without Borders told HKFP: "China has been lobbying for years to promote the idea of "national sovereignty" over the internet, which is a pretext for making it a tool of censorship and surveillance".

Most popular internet-based applications and websites are banned in China. In order for Google to satisfy the Chinese government sufficiently to pave a way for its return to the market, it may have to provide similar levels of censorship controls. But they said that it was unclear at this point if the app would be launched - partly because of the negative publicity surrounding the Intercept's story and partly due to the ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade.

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