Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Google whistleblower reveals plans for censored search in China

Report: Google's Plan to Launch Censored Search Engine in China Revealed Google allegedly working on censored search engine for Chinese market
Olivia Ford | 04 August, 2018, 17:50

At stake is the world's biggest online community of 772 million internet users, with nearly half of the population still not connected to the internet, according to the China Internet Report co-authored by the South China Morning Post, its tech news site Abacus and the San Francisco-based venture capital firm 500 start-ups.

Google is planning to relaunch a search service in mainland China, complete with government censorship, according to The Intercept.

The reports have prompted major concern among free speech and human rights activists, who fear that if Google were to return to China, having pulled its search engine from the country in 2010, it would be a regressive step given the country's extensive system of censorship. "But we don't comment on speculation about future plans", said Taj Meadows, a Google spokesman. In June, Google announced a $550 million investment in JD.com, a Chinese ecommerce company. Last year, Google unveiled plans to open a research centre in China focused on artificial intelligence. If approved by the government officials, the app could launch in the next 6 to 9 months. Revenue rose, but shares fell Wednesday as investors reacted to a report that Google would launch a new censored search engine in China.

The full and finalized version could be launched as soon as early 2019, pending Chinese officials' approval said the sources.

"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.

The most recent report about its pending strategy suggests Google engineers built a custom Android app, the two versions named "Maotai" and "Longfei".

Also, blacklisted words and phrases used in queries with the Chinese Google version won't return any results.

The report from The Intercept revealed a project called "Dragonfly", and claimed its existence was known only to a relatively small amount of employees. What is surprising, however, is that Google, back in 2010, withdrew its services from China after it discovered a cyberattack from within the country that targeted it and dozens of other companies.

China's internet censorship laws are well-known. It is unclear from the documents seen by The Intercept whether this first foray into heavily censored searching - via the mobile app - will be followed by a decision to censor the website itself.

Google's strength in mobile would certainly give the company a lead in search and advertising services.

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.

The dynamic changed in January 2010, when Google charged that Chinese hackers had targeted Google and more than 20 other Western companies and compromised the email accounts of Chinese dissidents living overseas. Google's stated values make this clear: Every one of our users is trusting us.

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