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After a decade, Google finally agrees to censor search results in China

04 August, 2018, 14:15 | Author: Lydia Fleming
  • Google reportedly plans to re-enter China with censored search engine

"We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered-combined with attempts over the a year ago to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger-had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn", the company wrote in a public statement at the time.

However, the Securities Times which is owned by the Chinese government said that reports of the search engine by Google returning were not true.

The censorship will be embedded in image search, spell check, and even suggested search. The Information reports (paywall) that a competitor to AI-powered news app Toutiao has also been under development by Google "since past year", and that, of course, it would "comply with the country's strict censorship laws".

Teams of programmers and engineers at Google have created a custom Android app, different versions of which have been named "Maotai" and "Longfei". This will ensure that people will not be recommended photos and information banned by the Chinese government. The revelation comes from leaked internal Google documents which The Intercept accessed; the project has been underway since 2017 and was accelerated following Google CEO Sundar Pichai meeting with a top Chinese government official. Accordingly, Google started to soften its rhetoric and tone on China within a couple of years after the Gmail hacking.

"One of those [people familiar with the matter] said the censorship product is still at the testing stage, and hasn't been formally submitted to the government for approval". "An exec at an internet giant once told me that their AI speaker could be much better if they didn't have to spend so much time on censoring sensitive stuff".

"This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom", Poon said.


In January, the search engine joined an investment in Chinese live-stream mobile game platform Chushou, and earlier this month, launched an artificial intelligence (AI) game on Tencent Holdings Ltd's social media app WeChat.

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.

Since Google exited, Baidu has become the dominant search engine in China.

The plan, which was criticized by human rights advocates, comes as China has stepped up scrutiny of business dealings involving United States tech firms including Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc amid intensifying trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. It will automatically block any websites or searches that are not approved under the Great Firewall.

The service was said to have been shown to Chinese officials. China is already censoring Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

California-based Google would also face stiff competition from China's Baidu - though stock in that company fell Wednesday on news of Google's possible return.

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