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Report: Google is Aiming to Get Back in China With a Censored Version of its Search Engine

By NexChange
Capital Markets

More than eight years after it shutdown its service in mainland China, Google is hatching a shocking plan to re-enter the market with a censored version of its search engine, according to leaked documents acquired by The Intercept.

According to The Intercept‘s stunning report, Google “will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest” from its censored search engine. The Intercept‘s Ryan Ghallagher reports that the secret project –  known as Dragonfly – was launched last spring and then “accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, according to internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans.”

Ghallagher’s report presents a shocking willingness by Google to acquiesce to the Chinese government’s demands, which includes building an Android app that “will comply with the country’s strict censorship laws, restricting access to content that Xi Jinping’s Communist Party regime deems unfavorable.” This app – which has been rolled out in different versions with names like “Maotai” and “Longfei” – has already been shown to the Chinese government, according to the report.

These strict internet censorship laws – dubbed the Great Firewall – has prevented Google’s search engine from being accessed in mainland China.

Per The Intercept:

The Chinese government blocks information on the internet about political opponents, free speech, sex, news, and academic studies. It bans websites about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for instance, and references to “anticommunism” and “dissidents.” Mentions of books that negatively portray authoritarian governments, like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, have been prohibited on Weibo, a Chinese social media website. The country also censors popular Western social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as American news organizations such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

According to the leaked documents acquired by The Intercept, “Google’s Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall.”

What makes Google’s plan so shocking is that when it shutdown its service in mainland China back in 2010, it did so because of sophisticated cyber attacks allegedly originating out of China.

“[During] our investigation into these attacks we had uncovered evidence to suggest that the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists connected with China were being routinely accessed by third parties, most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on their computers,” Google said in a blog post announcing its decision to yank its service from the country.

We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered—combined with attempts over the last year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger—had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn.

Users of Google.cn were redirected to Google.com.hk, its uncensored search engine operating via the company’s servers in Hong Kong.

“Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard,” Google added in its 2010 blog post. “We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.”

If The Intercept‘s report proves true, it appears Google has figured out a solution to its problems in mainland China: Just break your moral compass and agree to self-censorship.

Photo: Getty iStock

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