Google developing censor-friendly search engine for China

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Even if the censored search engine is not approved, Google seems unlikely to cease its efforts to expand into more and more corners of the Chinese market.

Offering a censored search engine would reaffirm the growing view that USA internet companies are increasingly willing to compromise on their supposed commitment to free speech for a chance to take a bite out of the Chinese market. The relations between the tech giant and the Chinese government never really got better, and most Google services are still barred in China. The Chinese government has some strict rules about internet access in their country and project Dragonfly is being made to address those rules.

The project codenamed Dragonfly is claimed to have been underway since early a year ago, with acceleration seen during the last couple of months, courtesy high-level meetings between Sundar Pichai and "a top Chinese government official".

China has been the biggest hole in Google's global footprint since it withdrew in 2010.

Google had previously complied with censorship controls starting in 2006 as it sought a toehold in the booming Chinese economy. But they said that it was unclear at this point if the app would be launched - partly because of the negative publicity surrounding the Intercept's story and partly due to the ongoing tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade.

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His name, his wife's name, his iconic statements, his photos, news of the Nobel Peace Prize, his empty chair at the same event - are all things you can't talk about on Weibo, China's largest social media platform, and WeChat, China's most popular instant messaging app. As per The Intercept's findings, Google's few hundred engineers and programmers have formulated a custom Android app that might have different versions, codenamed "Maotai" and "Longfei".

Separately, a Chinese official with knowledge of the plans said that Google has been in contact with authorities at the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) about a modified search program.

Facebook's website is also banned in China but the company has also signalled its interest to enter the market.

There was no guarantee the project would result in Google search returning to China.

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. The project has been underway since the fall of 2017 and has been demonstrated to Chinese officials at CES in January. Notable banned websites include BBC News and Wikipedia. Google has a complicated history in China and its search services haven't been widely available in the country since 2010, when it refused to censor search results and moved its Chinese operations to Hong Kong.

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