×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Google Readying Censored Search Service for China (Report)

U.S. internet giant Google may be preparing to launch a separate version of its search engine that would comply with China’s strict censorship requirements.

Google’s core search engine has not been available in China since 2010, when the company refused to follow Middle Kingdom regulations.

According to a report by The Intercept, based on documents that it said were supplied by an anonymous whistle-blower, Google has been preparing search options that would comply with Chinese strictures. Since 2017, it has been developing a project called Dragonfly, according to the report.

Built as an Android mobile app, Dragonfly would reportedly blacklist “sensitive queries.” That means it would filter out search results from websites currently blocked by Chinese censors. The censorship would extend to features including Google’s image search, spell check, and suggested search.

The Intercept’s report said Dragonfly has already been shown to the Chinese government. A final version could be ready within six to nine months, pending Chinese approvals.

“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,” Google said in a statement emailed to Variety.

Google currently offers Chinese-language search from Hong Kong, which operates under a partially separate jurisdiction from mainland China, but its results may be inaccessible to most ordinary web users in China.

If Google moves forward with the censored search project, it would be a significant reversal of the company’s policy. When exiting China in 2010, Google said the government was seeking to “limit free speech on the web.” Google’s potential reentry into China has already attracted criticism from human rights organization Amnesty International.

Since 2010, China has stepped up its control of the internet within its own borders and cracked down on freedom of expression. In addition to a formidable technological arsenal deployed to scrub the Internet and social media of any viewpoint that undermines a “harmonious society” as determined by the ruling Communist Party, China also requires web companies to be self-policing. Since mid-2017, any company operating inside China and holding even mundane data on Chinese citizens is also required to place its servers within the country.

The potential move by Google may reflect a conclusion that China and its 772 million internet users are too big for a major tech company to ignore.

The Nasdaq-traded shares of Baidu, China’s leading search provider, dipped Wednesday by more than 7% on the news of Google as a potential rival on its home turf. They have since recovered nearly all lost ground.

The trade war between China and the U.S. could be a factor in any regulatory decision to let Google operate in China. Only last month Facebook was last month granted a business license to set up an innovation hub in the city of Hangzhou. That appeared to be the product of years of business-diplomatic initiatives in China by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. However, the permit appears to have been withdrawn just days later.

China is currently undergoing a change of personnel within its Internet regulatory structure. The Cyberspace Authority of China was publicly criticized for not being strict enough. A new head of the CAC was appointed Wednesday. Earlier this week, a former head of the CAC was charged with corruption.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    AT&T's Ad-Tech Unit Xandr Buys Clypd To Help Place TV Commercials More Precisely

    Xandr, the AT&T ad-technology unit, has purchased a new company that helps advertisers use data to place commercials in front of the audiences most likely to want to watch them The AT&T division said Friday it had acquired clypd, a company that helps advertisers move forward in a growing desire by Madison Avenue to run [...]

  • AT&T Logo Building

    AT&T TV Now Price Hike Coming Next Month, Base Package to Cost $65

    AT&T is instituting a substantial price hike for its live TV streaming service AT&T TV Now: Customers who have subscribed to the service’s basic “Plus” package will see their bill go up by $15, to a total of $65 per month, starting next month. The telco has started to inform existing subscribers about the price [...]

  • Disney-Family-Movies

    Disney Family Movies SVOD Service Is Shutting Down Ahead of Disney Plus Debut

    After 11 years, Disney is pulling the plug on Disney Family Movies On Demand — with the service’s shutdown coming just days before the launch of the Mouse House’s Disney Plus. Disney Family Movies, which cost between $5-$10 per month, has been available via pay-TV providers in the U.S., including Comcast Xfinity, Charter Communications, Verizon [...]

  • Amazon Orders ‘All or Nothing: Tottenham

    Amazon Orders ‘All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur’ Soccer Doc Series

    Amazon has greenlit a new “All or Nothing” sports documentary series, this time following London-based soccer team Tottenham Hotspur. “All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur” will follow a year in the life of the team, charting the ongoing 2019-20 season. The squad made it to the final of the European Champions League last year, losing to [...]

  • Jeffrey Katzenberg

    Jeffrey Katzenberg's Quibi Picks T-Mobile as Wireless Launch Partner

    Quibi, the short-form mobile TV service founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, announced a pact with T-Mobile to be the official telecommunications partner for its April 2020 launch. T-Mobile will be the exclusive wireless distributor when Quibi launches next spring. However, the arrangement doesn’t mean only T-Mobile customers will be able to subscribe to Quibi: Anyone will [...]

  • Steve Kornacki

    Steve Kornacki, Chris Matthews Stand at Center of New NBC News Podcasts

    After vowing to press ahead more directly into the world of podcasts, NBC News is readying the launch of three additional audio shows centered around politics. “Article II: Inside Impeachment” will help listeners understand the impeachment process. The program, new episodes of which are slated to debut Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as people head for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content