The Alphabet-owned technology company Google is allegedly working on a censored version of its popular search engine that would be only available in China, according to The Intercept.
The search engine has been barred from use in mainland China for the last few years since Google previously refused to conform to the Chinese government and its internet restrictions.
China is known as one of the most censored countries in the world and the “Great Firewall of China” also blocks websites like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, along with information about free speech, sex, political opponents, news, and more.
But apparently, Google is working on the secret censored search engine project known as Dragonfly for the country and has been since 2017.
“Documents seen by The Intercept, marked “Google confidential,” say that Google’s Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall. When a person carries out a search, banned websites will be removed from the first page of results, and a disclaimer will be displayed stating that “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements,” writes The Intercept.
According to the source, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai met with the Chinese government last December and has presented a Google search engine app for Android users to the government. The company has also worked on different versions called “Maotai” and “Longfei.”
“If the effort were to proceed, it would mark a sharp about-face for Google that is certain to fuel controversy among human-rights advocates and many of its own employees, as well as U.S. politicians. When Google abandoned its Chinese search operations in 2010 to protest the state’s censorship, co-founder Sergey Brin described the government as having the “earmarks of totalitarianism” of the Soviet Union, where he was born,” writes The Wall Street Journal.
So why is Google changing its tune?
China has over 770 million internet users that Google is missing out on targeting.
Privacy advocates and human rights group were quick to condemn Google’s reported move to offer a censored search engine.
“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,” said Patrick Poon, Amnesty International’s China Researcher. “For the world’s biggest search engine to adopt such extreme measures would be a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom. In putting profits before human rights, Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory.”
The Intercept’s source agreed to speak to the publication on the condition of anonymity because they also had moral and ethical concerns about Google’s actions.
“I’m against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people, and feel like transparency around what’s being done is in the public interest,” said the source. “What is done in China will become a template for many other nations.”
Google has not addressed this accusation.
“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. But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans,” said a spokesperson to The Verge.
Author’s note: Let’s hope Google isn’t considering giving into China’s ridiculous demands. China just becomes more repressive and controlling of its citizens.
Editor’s note: If liberal idealist Google ever wanted to stand up for anything, this would be it.