Google has been developing a censored version of its search engine under the codename "Dragonfly" since the start of previous year, according to a report published Wednesday by The Intercept, which cites internal documents provided by a whistleblower.
News website The Intercept first reported the story, saying the Chinese search app was being tailored for Google-backed Android operating system for mobile devices.
Google is crafting a search engine that would meet China's draconian censorship rules, a company employee told AFP on Thursday (Aug 2), in a move decried by human rights activists.
You might have read reports of Google planning to return to China with a Censored Search Engine. According to the leaked materials, the development of the censorship-friendly mobile search engine app began in the spring of past year.
The Google project, codenamed Dragonfly, has been in development since Spring of 2017, and was accelerated in December 2017, following a meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and top Chinese government officials.
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Sen. Marco Rubio and even some Google employees are among those criticizing the company. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services.
To some at Google, the company appears to have dramatically changed its thinking on at least some moral issues.
In early 2010, Google shut down its search engine in mainland China after rows over censorship and hacking.
While going to Google to search for virtually anything is a common practice for many of us, the same isn't true for people in China.
In order to deliver this censored version of its search service, Google is working on a custom Android app which has had different internal names including Maotai and Longfei.
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Speaking out due to fear that "what is done in China will become a template for many other nations", a Google whistleblower told The Intercept, "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".
Reports of its possible re-entry spurred a strong reaction on Chinese social media outlets on Wednesday evening, including debates over the merits of a censored search engine versus accessing the USA version through illegal virtual private networks.
China's internet censorship laws are well-known. For example, it insisted previous year that it wasn't blocking VPNs, which are now one of the few options for Chinese citizens who want to bypass the Great Firewall.
The Intercept also reports that Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with a senior Chinese government official in December a year ago and the government has been shown the service and Android app working.
The app will behave exactly like the Chinese government wants, filtering search results to remove any content deemed offensive by the Communist Party.
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