Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest, reported The Intercept. The revelation comes from leaked internal Google documents which The Intercept accessed; the project has been underway since 2017 and was accelerated following Google CEO Sundar Pichai meeting with a top Chinese government official.
Google closed down the search engine from the Chinese web in 2010 due to pressure from the government over censorship; now it has been developing an Android App of the censored version of Google that will purge out search results which are not compliant with the Asian giant’s strict censorships laws. The app has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government; the finalized version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials, according to The Intercept. The alleged product will block social media services already banned in China including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, websites about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, international media such as the BBC and New York Times, Wall Street Journal, references to “anticommunism” and “dissidents”, mentions of books that negatively portray authoritarian governments, like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm.
Confidential Google documents accessed by the publication reveal that Google’s Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the ‘Great Firewall’. When a person carries out a search, banned websites will be removed from the first page of results, and a disclaimer will be displayed stating that “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements.” The censorship will apply across the platform: Google’s image search, automatic spell check and suggested search features will incorporate the blacklists.
According to The Intercept, only a few hundred employees within Google know about the China project out of 88,000 employee strength. The publication quoted an anonymous source within Google as saying that “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.” The source told the Intercept that there were moral and ethical concerns about Google’s role in the censorship within the team which is developing the project.