Multiple media sources are reporting that Google is working on a search service for the Chinese market, specifically modified to meet the censorship demands of the country's governing Communist Party.
Google is looking to reenter the Chinese market it exited in protest over government censorship in a move critics say is nothing short of hypocritical.
At the time, Google staffers wrote an open letter to company CEO Sundar Pichai, which read in part, "We can not outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties". Unfortunately, the Intercept is reporting on some internal documents that suggest Google is moving back in the other direction, and testing a censored version of its search engine for China. The (successful) refusal of Google staff to work for the USA military has proved that workers have a say in the company's future. In June, Google announced a $550 million investment in JD.com, a Chinese ecommerce company.
Google has had quite the roller coaster ride with China.
"The reality is that they will be serving the Chinese government", said Lockman Tsui, former head of free expression for Google in Asia.
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Progress on the project picked up after a December meeting between Google's Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, it added.
Under development for more than a year, the project includes two Android apps, called Maotai and Longfei, which could be launch within a matter of months if approval was gained. Poon told The Intercept that if Google launches a censored version of its search engine it will "set a awful precedent" for other companies. "In putting profits before human rights, Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory".
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 plan reflects a growing effort by tech companies to access the Chinese market, which boasts the world's second-largest economy.
According to The Information, Google is developing a news-aggregation app for use in China that will comply with the country's censorship laws. And Google has apparently changed its mind about censorship. In the first half of 2018, China's national internet regulator shut down or revoked the license of more than 3000 websites.
The app would censor search queries and results in compliance with China's Golden Shield Project, better known in the West at the Great Firewall of China.
What has been censored in China's has varied somewhat over the years. Google's stated values make this clear: Every one of our users is trusting us.