Google is reportedly planning to launch a highly censored - and lucrative - version of its search engine for China that will block websites and certain search terms the country's government objects to, a new report said Wednesday.
The project is code-named "Dragonfly" and started in the spring of 2017, The Intercept reported. A launch within the next six to nine months is expected contingent upon government approval.
Andy Tian, a tech executive who formerly led mobile strategy and partnerships for Google in China, said the Chinese tech companies that now dominate search can't compete with Google's product.
Google plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, marking a major shift in strategy for the U.S. internet giant almost a decade after it exited the world's second largest economy over Beijing's strict censorship rules, according to a report by The Intercept.
"This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom", Poon said.
First published August 1 at 8:25 a.m. PT. Update, 12:45 p.m.: Adds more information. Search results will not include links to sites focusing on democracy, religion, human rights, or protests in addition to an array of other forbidden topics.
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Furthermore, The Intercept also notes that Google's app won't show any results for specific words and phrases that have been banned by the government.
Google is developing a version of its search engine that will conform to China's censorship laws, reports say.
That said, the company has been making slight overtures to the Chinese people. "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".
Its Google Translate app for smartphones was approved in China a year ago.
In order to deliver this censored version of its search service, Google is working on a custom Android app which has had different internal names including Maotai and Longfei. It will set a awful precedent for many other companies who are still trying to do business in China while maintaining the principles of not succumbing to China's censorship. Google's Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall.
In early 2010, Google closed up shop in mainland China after rows over censorship and hacking. For example, it insisted previous year that it wasn't blocking VPNs, which are now one of the few options for Chinese citizens who want to bypass the Great Firewall.
But Meredith Whittaker, a New York University research scientist and recognized ethicist in artificial intelligence who also happens to be a Google employee, raised questions publicly about whether Google's plan to provide a censored search service in China violated the company's new AI principles.