Industry

Google plans return to China search market with censored app

Google plans return to China search market with censored app

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.

More than 200 employees at Google are working on the new censored search engine.

The Intercept reports that Internet titan Google has plans to launch a censored search engine in China that will blacklist access to certain websites and restrict search terms related to human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest, according to leaked documents.

Google in 2010, pulled back its search engine and many other relevant services from the country over government censorship. "Based on our checks, Google had a chance to re-enter China a few years ago with YouTube and Play Store, but both times the company declined for various reasons".

The documents revealed that work on Dragonfly began to speed up last December following a meeting between Google's CEO Sundar Pichai and an unnamed "top Chinese official".

That said, the company has been making slight overtures to the Chinese people. Like, plans to re-launch a China-optimised version of Google Play. The Chinese government is well known for blocking a plethora of content ranging from any material that is critical of Communism, any references to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, pornography and even George Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm".

It's unclear when, and if, the app will launch, but Google's search engine chief Ben Gomes told staff last month that they must be ready to launch it at short notice, if "suddenly the world changes or [President Donald Trump] decides his new best friend is Xi Jinping".

The new app, which has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government and is pending approval, was designed in California, with the help from other worldwide Google teams, the report notes.

"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. Google now has more than 700 employees in China.

Google's re-entry into China will see it compete with Baidu, which now has nearly 70 per cent of the domestic search market, according to data by StatCounter Global Stats.

China has one of the strictest censorship regimes in the world, according to HRW.

That Google would not care for civic duties - in this instance not just censoring information and knowledge, but also censoring ideological differences and news of human rights violations - is not hard to imagine.

The internet in China is heavily censored, with the country's so-called Great Firewall stopping citizens from accessing many foreign websites.

Last month, the senator criticized US airlines for acquiescing to the Chinese government's demands that they remove references to Taiwan from their websites. Whether or not tech companies should enable censorship and the following oppression of a nation's people is open to debate.