Google is reportedly planning to launch a censored search app in China

Google China

Google's plan comes during a time that China increased its scrutiny into dealings that involve tech firms from the US including Apple, Qualcomm and Facebook amidst the increased trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Having pulled their services from China eight years ago due to concerns over censorship, Google have made a clear pivot towards China in recent times.

Through the looking glass: Google has had several run-ins with the Chinese government and is finally caving to demands for a heavily restricted search engine. At the time Google cited limitations on free speech, blocked websites, email surveillance, and cyber attacks as reasons for pulling the filtered version.

The website The Intercept, which first reported the program, said the search engine "will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest".

In a statement to The Verge, a Google spokesperson says the company doesn't comment on speculated future plans.

It would seem, however, that access to the huge Chinese market was too good to resist for Google.

The Google China headquarters in Beijing in 2010.

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The work followed a meeting between Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official. The app has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government; the finalized version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials.

Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with human rights group Amnesty International, stated that Google's sudden willingness to work with regimes that censor information could be a "big disaster for the information age".

Almost a decade ago, in January 2010, Google abruptly exited the Chinese market after Gmail was hacked by entities or individuals associated with the Chinese government, seeking to identify and crack down on human-rights activists. In a congressional hearing that year on the activities of USA technology companies in China, Google was called a "functionary of the Chinese government".

The documents, provided by an unnamed Google employee to The Intercept, show that Google engineers at its Mountain View, California head office have been working on a project called "Dragonfly" since the spring of 2017.

China has in the past two years imposed increasingly strict rules on foreign companies, including new censorship restrictions. For example, links to the BBC website and Wikipedia would be removed from the search results, The Intercept said. There are a lot of countries that would gladly pay a pretty penny to censor the internet in their region. According to the leaked materials, the development of the censorship-friendly mobile search engine app began in the spring of previous year. The country's entire internet is effectively "surrounded" by its Great Firewall of China, a joint effort by the state and tech and telecommunications companies to censor the web in accordance with Chinese law.

A women polishes a dais before the Google global Chinese name launch on April 12, 2006 in Beijing, China.

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