Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

How Google reversed its course on opposition to censorship in China

How Google reversed its course on opposition to censorship in China

Google's plan reflects a growing effort by tech companies to access the Chinese market, which boasts the world's second-largest economy.

In early 2010, Google shut down its search engine in mainland China after rows over censorship and hacking.

"It will be a dark day for Internet freedom if Google has acquiesced to China's extreme censorship rules to gain market access", Patrick Poon, a China researcher for Amnesty, said in a statement. 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.

The initiative would represent the first time in nearly a decade that Google has operated its search engine in the country, whose Great Firewall now blocks its service. The company is developing an engine that will blacklist websites and terms about human rights, democracy, religion and protests - all of them really sensitive topics in China.

A Google spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the company "does not comment on speculation about future plans".

"Fun fact: 2 months before I left Microsoft (for Google) I ranted to my manager about how MS had no values, & Google had a sufficiently strong moral compass to forgo business in China for greater principles", Harris wrote.

A security guard keeps watch as he walks past a logo of Google in Shanghai, China, April 21, 2016.

For the most part, Google search is inaccessible thanks to the "Great Firewall" that blocks many foreign internet services.

"The biggest search engine in the world obeying the censorship in China is a victory for the Chinese government-it sends a signal that nobody will bother to challenge the censorship any more".

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In response to the report, a Google spokesperson told HKFP: "We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com".

Human rights group Amnesty International is anxious that such a move from Google would set a unsafe precedent for the country.

According to The Intercept, it's had a change of heart and CEO Sundar Pichai conducted a secret meeting late previous year with a Chinese official to speed up the relaunch.

Despite pulling its search engine in 2010, Google now has more than 700 employees in China, according to the Times.

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".

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

China's top internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Intercept.

Although China's internet penetration is just over 50 per cent, its sheer scale means that there are three times the number of smartphone users and 11 times the number of mobile payment users in China than in the U.S., according to the report.

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