Google’s new Search app: Designed and censored in California, made for China

Yolanda Curtis
August 4, 2018

"For the world's biggest search engine to adopt such extreme measures would be a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom". In its announcement about pulling out of the country in March 2010, Google blamed the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance policies as antithetical to what the company believes.

Google certainly hasn't shied away from controversy when dealing with the Chinese government, refusing to bow down to its censorship rules in 2010 and shutting down its search engine in the country.

A Google spokeswoman said that the company would not speculate on future plans, but that it did already have a notable presence in China.

The search engine is being built as an Android mobile app, and will reportedly "blacklist sensitive queries" and filter out all websites blocked by China's web censors (including Wikipedia and BBC News).

Last year, Google said that its second innings will resolve around Artificial Intelligence.

This means that Chinese Google users will no longer see words and phrases that are seen as subversive, including references to the Aldous Huxley book Brave New World, the cartoon character Peppa Pig, and even Winnie the Pooh.

Alviani told HKFP: "After Apple's decision to remove VPNs from its Chinese store and to host its Chinese iCloud on local servers, Google's decision would set a new precedent that could encourage other major online contents distributors, especially Facebook and Linkedin, to abide by the Chinese censorship model".

So far, neither Google or the Chinese government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs have made any official statement concerning the story.

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. This censorship will happen across the board, with elements like image search, spell check, and search suggestions hiding keywords blocked on request of the Chinese government. The Arkansas senator was among a handful of lawmakers who signed a bipartisan letter last month urging the company to consider cutting ties with Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant.

The Chinese official, who did not want to be named, said that the new project is not now approved by authorities and it was highly unlikely that such a project would be able to be up and operating during 2018.

However, it appears that Google has now had a change of heart, perhaps influenced by China's estimated 772 million internet users.

The search app would "blacklist sensitive queries", The Intercept says, identifying and filtering websites now blocked by China's so-called Great Firewall.

"This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom".

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