No, Google is not returning to China, censored or otherwise

Posted August 04, 2018

Google is reportedly planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in mainland China, after an eight-year absence from the country. Between 2006 and 2010, Google actually ran a censored version of its search engine in China. This will ensure that people will not be recommended photos and information banned by the Chinese government.

According to internal documents provided to The Intercept by a whistleblower, Google has been developing a censored version of its search engine under the codename Dragonfly since the beginning of 2017. And it looks like at least one Google employee familiar with the plans related to China is willing to speak up.

Changing attitudes and a massive market appear to have dented Google's commitment to defending online speech. The app is said to have been demonstrated to the Beijing government. It will set a bad precedent for many other companies who are still trying to do business in China while maintaining the principles of not succumbing to China's censorship.

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After leaving China nearly a decade ago, Google might be going back. In the Reuters report an unnamed official from China's cyberspace regulator confirms that Google and the regulator are discussing a modified search program, but added that the app is very unlikely to be launched this year. "But we don't comment on speculation about future plans", said Taj Meadows, a Google spokesman.

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.

It could make sense for the tech giant to reintroduce its search engine in China, considering the country is now the biggest internet market in the world.

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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. "Based on our checks, Google had a chance to re-enter China a few years ago with YouTube and Play Store, but both times the company declined for various reasons".

According to the Intercept, the app will automatically pick up on and block websites on Beijing's blacklist, known as the Great Firewall.

Apparently, talks between Google and Chinese officials have been ongoing for some time. -China trade war - which increasingly centers on technological competition - and that an office in eastern China set up by Facebook was swiftly shut down by central government authorities on July 25.

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That system, sometimes referred to as the Great Firewall, includes the blocking of multiple news and social media websites as well as the many search queries or items the government deems problematic, ranging from religion to issues of human rights abuses in the country.