Google is reportedly considering launching a search engine in China in compliance with censorship demands by the government, according to a report in The Intercept.
The Intercept report claims project Dragonfly has been around since last year, although “knowledge about Dragonfly has been restricted to just a few hundred members.” An alleged insider, however, told The Intercept the search engine will block results related to “human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest.”
As explained by The Intercept, the Chinese government already blocks citizens from researching certain topics and using specific websites through the Great Firewall:
The Chinese government blocks information on the internet about political opponents, free speech, sex, news, and academic studies. It bans websites about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for instance, and references to “anticommunism” and “dissidents.” Mentions of books that negatively portray authoritarian governments, like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, have been prohibited on Weibo, a Chinese social media website. The country also censors popular Western social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as American news organizations such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
From 2006 to 2010, a censored version of Google’s search engine was available in China. In a blog post in 2010, Google wrote, in addition to the results from cyber attacks, “attempts over the last 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.”
In the blog post, Google announced that it would stop censoring Google products and redirected Chinese users to Google.com.hk (Hong Kong) instead of Google.cn (China).
At the time, Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin reportedly told The New York Times he opposed “those forces of totalitarianism” in the country.
On the speculation surrounding the story in The Intercept, a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch, “We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com . But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.”
The Google search app, which would be available on Android devices, will reportedly be released in the next six to nine months, pending approval from the Chinese government.