Google is reportedly planning to get back into China with it’s customized search engine.
The Intercept reported that Google plans to launch a search app in China. The app would comply with Chinese government censorship and would block sensitive websites.
The company was working on a search app that restricts content banned by Beijing.
China’s vast censorship apparatus, the Great Firewall — prevents the country’s 730 million internet users from accessing information on sensitive subjects like Tibet or the deadly 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square protests.
Google had operated a Chinese language version of its search engine which complied with China’s censorship rules but alerted users to the fact that some search results were missing. Google stopped offering its popular services including search, YouTube, and Gmail in China in 2010 following a political dispute between Beijing and Washington over hacking.
Earlier this month reports surfaced that Google is interested in bringing search back to China. The company was working on a search app that restricts content banned by Beijing. The project, known internally as Dragonfly, was developed largely in secret. This prompted outrage among employees who were worried that they had been working on technology that would help China suppress information from its citizens.
In the latest example of how Google’s outspoken workforce has agitated for changes in company’s strategy, The New York Times reported that around 1,400 employees have signed a letter questioning the plan and calling for more transparency.”To make ethical choices, Googlers need to know what we’re building. Right now we don’t,” reads a copy of the letter posted on the website of The Times.
It is impossible for US tech companies to ignore China’s hundreds of millions of internet users and a thriving online shopping market.
Earlier in April, the internet company’s employees spoke out against its involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to improve weaponry. By June, Google had said it would not renew a contract with the Pentagon for A.I. work.
Sundar Pichai, CEO Google Inc, at a town hall meeting, said he’s not rushing to launch a search product for China. He also added that “whether we would do so, or could do so is all very unclear, but the team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now and I think they are exploring many options.”
The discussion was part of a regular meeting that is open to all employees. The meeting was the first such event since media reports detailed Google’s efforts to build a censored app for the country.
Although its flagship services are not accessible in the country, Google has maintained a significant presence in China with over 700 employees working for them. It announced plans for a research center in China last year which focuses on artificial intelligence. And it has also introduced translation and file management apps for the Chinese market.
It is impossible for US tech companies to ignore China’s hundreds of millions of internet users and a thriving online shopping market. But the country has frustrated American tech giants with content restrictions or outright blockages of services including Facebook and Instagram.
It is going to be a tough call for Google since the Chinese market is huge but is Google ready to part with its long advocated ethics of the free and open internet to gain an entry in China?
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