Google's Plan to Launch Censored Search Engine in China Revealed

Google's Plan to Launch Censored Search Engine in China Revealed

Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google is planning a censored version of its search engine for China that will block websites and certain search terms, The Intercept reported on Wednesday citing internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans. Even the Play Store isn't spared and Android phones intended for the Chinese market ship without any Google Apps (or GApps) preloaded.

- Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) August 1, 2018 If Google goes through with this and launches a censored search engine in China, effectively normalizing and Americanizing authoritarian censorship, this will be the Waterloo in the global battle for a free internet as a norm.

Dubbed as Project Dragonfly, it has been in the works since spring of a year ago. Allowing Google back into the country would appear to be of little overall benefit to the Chinese government. It gained momentum after a meeting between Sundar Pichai, and top Chinese government officials took place in December 2017.

The app, which has been called Maotai and Longfei at different stages in development, has been demonstrated to Chinese officials, and could release in the next six to nine months.

When Google pulled out of China in 2010, co-founder Sergey Brin voiced strong objections to any form of censorship having been born in the Soviet Union.

Google's main search platform is blocked in China along with its video platform YouTube, but it has been attempting to make new inroads into China.

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Has Google become the very thing they once opposed?

While it is unclear how many sites will be filtered out by Google's censored search engine, Wikipedia and the BBC were specifically mentioned in company documents as websites that would be blacklisted. Eventually, the company chose to scrap the search engine after Chinese human rights activists' Gmail accounts were hacked in a coordinated attack and negotiations with the Chinese government predictably failed to result in any kind of agreement.

Only about a hundred odd employees within Google know about the existence of Project Dragonfly. By supporting initiatives such as Project Dragonfly, it is on the path to becoming the very oppressors they vehemently opposed.

Censorship is set to continue indefinitely within China and seems to be getting more pervasive every year.

It is easy to dismiss any argument about Project Dragonfly by invoking the slippery slope fallacy card, but in this case, the consequences could be much worse than imagined.

Campaign groups have criticised Google for hypocrisy and assisting oppression, arguing the move sets a risky precedent for other large organisations. There are a lot of countries that would gladly pay a pretty penny to censor the internet in their region.

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