GOOGLE IS REPORTEDLY planning to re-enter China with a bespoke, filtered search engine that's compliant with the one-party state's censorship demands.
The project, code-named Dragonfly, will censor search terms about human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protest, according to documents leaked to The Intercept, while blocking particularly sensitive searches entirely.
Already, according to the documents, engineers at Google have created a customer Android app, which has been demonstrated to officials from the Chinese government for their approval. The app, according to the documents, will "blacklist sensitive queries" and filter websites already blocked by Chinese authorities.
The censorship will cover image search, spell checking and suggested searches.
According to The Intercept: "Google's Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the so-called Great Firewall of China. When a person carries out a search, banned websites will be removed from the first page of results, and a disclaimer will be displayed stating that ‘some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements'".
The search app will also completely blacklist sensitive queries - such as, presumably, 'Chinese Communist Party corruption' so that no results will be shown.
In a bid to keep the project under wraps, only a few hundred members of the company's 88,000 workforce are even aware of the project, which according to The Intercept is being masterminded by a handful of top executives at the company, in a bid to avoid public scrutiny of the company's plans.
In addition to censoring sites such as the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Wikipedia, the Chinese authorities also censor mentions of books that portray governments like China's in a poor light, such as 1984 and Animal Farm.
Social media sites beyond the reach of the Chinese government are also covered by its censorship activities, hence the blocks on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
The Great Firewall of China serves two purposes: first, to prevent people in China accessing information that the Communist Party of China doesn't want them to see; and second, to lock up the fast-growing market of 1.4 billion people so that Chinese companies, controlled by China's elites, can build major online businesses unencumbered by foreign competition.
Typically, any company that wants to set-up in China has to do so in the form of a joint venture with local companies, which doesn't just cut them into the revenue opportunities, but also entails knowledge sharing.
Google's Android operating system is by far the most popular mobile operating system in China. But device makers are blocked by law from pre-loading the usual array of Google apps that they are obliged to incorporate in Android anywhere else in the world.
According to The Intercept, the whistleblower leaked the documents because they are "against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people".
They added: "What is done in China will become a template for many other nations." µ
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