Google plans limited version of search engine in China

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Google responded to the report in a statement to The Verge saying, "we don't comment on speculation about future plans". Lastly, Google bowning down to the Chinese government is a huge win for the latter as it sets a precedent for smaller companies not to challenge censorship in China.

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

"We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered-combined with attempts over the past year 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.

"For the world's biggest search engine to adopt such extreme measures would be a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom". And Chinese technology companies must provide the government access to information on their users.

China already has well-developed Google alternatives, most notably Baidu, a company that has thrived without having to worry about the Silicon Valley giant as a competitor.

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Recently, Google removed its long-time unofficial motto, "don't be evil," from its corporate code of conduct.

At the beginning of 2006, Google launched a search engine in China that censored results returned regarding human rights, Tibet and other topics sensitive to Beijing.

Google has been fighting internally over the ethical implications of its actions in recent years, and the China dilemma is a major battlefront.

In order to deliver this censored version of its search service, Google is working on a custom Android app which has had different internal names including Maotai and Longfei. At the same time, there are over 750 million internet users there, which Google would love to gain access to.

The new app, which has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government and is pending approval, was designed in California, with the help from other worldwide Google teams, the report notes. Most of its services are blocked, including Gmail and the Google Play app store.

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Google insiders don't know if China will approve the app amid an escalating trade dispute with the USA, but Search head Ben Gomes told staff last month to be ready to launch on short notice. There are a lot of countries that would gladly pay a pretty penny to censor the internet in their region.

The company made a decision to quicken the development of a censored search service after Mr Pichai met with top government official Wang Huning in December 2017, the Intercept reported.

Google's Chinese search app would remove banned websites from the first page of results.

For privacy advocates and those who are concerned with the state of censorship in China, Google's reported move would be most unwelcome.

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