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

04 August 2018

It comes as China steps up scrutiny into business dealings involving United States tech firms including Facebook.

An official in China with knowledge the plans are moving forward, said Google was in contact with Chinese authorities at the government's Cyberspace Administration of China related to a modified search engine.

But Meredith Whittaker, a New York University research scientist and recognized ethicist in artificial intelligence who also happens to be a Google employee, raised questions publicly about whether Google's plan to provide a censored search service in China violated the company's new AI principles.

The Google project, codenamed Dragonfly, has been in development since Spring of 2017, and was accelerated in December 2017, following a meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and top Chinese government officials.

But online news site The Intercept says Google has been working on a project code-named Dragonfly that will block terms like human rights and religion, a move sure to anger activists.

"We don't comment on speculation about future plans", a Google spokesperson wrote in an email to Search Marketing Daily.

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It has been hard for Google to make any cracks in the Great Firewall which stands rigidly in front of any internet traffic that the Chinese government doesn't like.

A security guard keeps watch as he walks past a logo of Google in Shanghai, China, April 21, 2016.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, has denied its reports of draconian censorship to a certain degree.

Google is preparing a version of its search engine for China that blocks results Beijing considers sensitive, according to people familiar with the situation. The project started previous year in April after Sundar Pinchai's meeting with the Chinese government.

Google programmers and engineers have reportedly made an Android app that's already been shown to the Chinese government.

The company finally agreed to remove some content from serving up in the search results on google.cn to adhere to local law and continue operating in China. In the first half of 2018, China's national internet regulator shut down or revoked the license of more than 3000 websites.

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China of course is widely considered to have one of the most repressive Internet censorship schemes in the world, which is created to prevent criticism of the ruling Communist Party and suppress dissent and other information deemed to be risky.

According to The Information, Google is developing a news-aggregation app for use in China that will comply with the country's censorship laws.

Per the Bloomberg report, one Google employee transferred to a different role at the company due to ethical concerns over Dragonfly.

While it is unclear how many sites will be filtered out by Google's censored search engine, Wikipedia and the BBC were specifically mentioned in company documents as websites that would be blacklisted.

But the report pummelled shares of US-listed Baidu, which dominates China's search engine market.

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

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