[Update 2: Work has reportedly ended] Google plans to relaunch Search in China with censored results
Google and China haven’t always been on the best of terms. China is very protective of the information they let into their country and will do whatever they can to block what they don’t want in. On the other hand, Google feels that information should be free and that everyone should have access to as much as we can collect. YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook were blocked in China as early as 2009, and Google Search was actually allowed to maintain a highly censored version in China between 2006 and 2010. After pressure from the House International Relations Committee, Google removed their web search feature from the country, but leaked documents reviewed by The Intercept indicate Google will be bringing their web search back in the near future.
The removal of Google Search from China is rather interesting. Besides the fact that Google wasn’t a fan of providing a censored version of its service, it was pressure from the United States that was the last straw. From 2006 to around 2010 there were a number of congressional hearings for American companies who were providing services within China. It was the House International Relations Committee who ended up calling Google a “functionary of the Chinese government” and accused it of “abhorrent actions” for participating in censorship.
Google knows how important the country of China is for their bottom line, so they have slowly been working their way back. They recently increased their manpower in the hardware operations division and then announced an artificial intelligence center within the country as well. Now, a leaked document claims the tech giant is planning on getting their search engine back into China with the project being called “Dragonfly.” Naturally, it will be a censored version. Websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protests will not be allowed.
The engineers at Google have gone as far as to create two different applications, one called “Maotai” and the other called “Longfei.” These applications are Google’s attempt to demonstrate what it can bring to the country of China. Estimates say that finalized versions of these applications could be launched in the next 6 to 9 months. Thanks to the new president of the United States, relationships with foreign countries have been on a downslide, but we will have to wait and see if the Mountain View tech giant and China can end up coming to an agreement here.
Update 1: Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Alphabet President Sergey Brin respond
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sundar Pichai addressed these claims at a weekly all-hands meeting. He said the company is “not close to launching a search product” in China. Sergey Brin also spoke at the meeting, saying the progress in the country is “slow-going and complicated.” He also said launching projects in China requires “a certain set of trade-offs.”
Update 2: Work on “Dragonfly,” Google’s censored search engine for China, has reportedly ended
The Intercept now reports that Google has shut down work on Dragonfly, Google’s efforts to build a censored search engine for China. The project reportedly ended due to complaints raised by members of Google’s privacy team. Sources told The Intercept that members of Google’s privacy team were not informed about the project. Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared before the United States Congress last week, telling members of the House Judiciary Committee that the company “right now” had no plans to launch the censored search engine. The Intercept reports that Google planned on launching the search engine between January and April of 2019.