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Google Courts Chinese Market With Censored Search

Whistleblowers within Google have outed plans to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market, originally leaking to the Intercept.

It is reported that the new search engine, codenamed project Dragonfly, has been in development since late last year and more recently received a boost when Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Wang Huning, a high ranking Chinese government official and foreign policy adviser to Xi Jinping, met in December 2017.

The custom Android app will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protest.

Blacklisted information will automatically be removed before the user is served up the results of their search.

Specific blacklisted search queries will also be censored, with the user being given zero results if they search for a banned phrase, topic or word.

We now know that the app has been demonstrated for the Chinese government and is expected to launch in the next six to nine months – if the Chinese government approves.

Google famously left the Chinese market in 2010 due to government attempts to “limit free speech on the web”.

Changing attitudes and a massive market appear to have dented Google’s commitment to defending online speech.

Google strictly controlled the information regarding the development of the app, with only a few hundred even knowing about the project, less than one percent of Google’s 88,000 strong workforce.

The benefits for Google are apparent – China has 750 million internet users, 95 percent of all web searches are done on mobile phones and 80 percent of all mobile devices in China are Android.

Having a native search app for those phones that Chinese users can access would represent a massive boon for the tech giant.

Officially, the project will be a joint venture with a second, unnamed Chinese company, though all the work on development is occurring in Google’s American offices.

Since this article was first published, Reuters has published that the China Securities Daily newspaper has rejected claims that Google may re-enter the Chinese market, citing the relevant departments.

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