Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Google Testing A Censored Search Engine Just For China

Google Testing A Censored Search Engine Just For China

The company has been slowly entering the Chinese market by launching its Translate app in China and opening an AI research lab in Beijing during 2017.

Google could be preparing to launch a search engine in China that would conform to the country's strict censorship laws, after previously opting out of the country in 2010.

The project is codenamed "Dragonfly" and the new service may take the form of an Android app.

The California-based internet company has engineers designing search software that would leave out content blacklisted by the Chinese government, according to a New York Times report citing two unnamed people familiar with the effort. A launch within the next six to nine months is expected contingent upon government approval.

Google's search engine services have always been blocked in China under the so-called Great Firewall.

Google is said to be working on project Dragonfly which aims to bring the search back in China.

First published August 1 at 8:25 a.m. PT. Update, 12:45 p.m.: Adds more information. Google has also undergone changes as a company, with its new CEO Pichai leading the charge to once again get a foothold in the country.

Some of Google's own employees were reportedly not happy about the prospect of offering a censored search to appease China's government. Google has been making a series of strategic investments into Chinese businesses as a way to indirectly gain access to one of the world's largest markets, but now may be taking a more direct approach.

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"It will be a dark day for internet freedom if Google has acquiesced to China's extreme censorship".

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

The official, who declined to be named, said the project does not now have approval from authorities and that it is "very unlikely" such a project would be made available this year.

Progress on the project - which would end Google's eight-year boycott of the communist country over complaints about censorship - picked up after a December meeting between Google's chief executive Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official.

Censorship is set to continue indefinitely within China and seems to be getting more pervasive every year.

"Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory", its China researcher, Patrick Poon, said in an e-mailed statement.

While an app is on the cards, the launch of a desktop version is uncertain for now. Earlier this year, there was open employee revolt, and a few employees resigned in protest of Google's intended use of its AI technology to support US Defense Department initiatives.

The tech giant had already come under fire this year from thousands of employees who signed a petition against a US$10-million contract with the USA military, which was not renewed.

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