Google working on censorship-ready search for China
04 August, 2018, 12:54 | Author: Tara Roberts
At the beginning of 2006, Google launched a search engine in China that censored results returned regarding human rights, Tibet and other topics sensitive to Beijing.
The tech giant had already come under fire this year from thousands of employees who signed a petition against a $10-million contract with the U.S. military, which was not renewed.
The plan, which was criticized by human rights advocates, comes as China has stepped up scrutiny of business dealings involving United States tech firms including Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc amid intensifying trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.
In order to deliver this censored version of its search service, Google is working on a custom Android app which has had different internal names including Maotai and Longfei. Google has also undergone changes as a company, with its new CEO Pichai leading the charge to once again get a foothold in the country. Three years after launch, Google had wrestled about a third of the search market away from its Chinese rival.
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Google, which quit China's search engine market in 2010, has been actively seeking ways to re-enter China where many of its products are blocked by regulators. "How enabling mass politically-directed censorship of (AI-enabled) search isn't a violation of Article 19 & in turn a violation of Google's pledge not to build tech that "contravenes widely accepted principles of.human rights" is a mystery indeed". "I'm committed to engaging more in China", he said. Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International, said that "it will be a dark day for internet freedom if Google has acquiesced to China's extreme censorship rules to gain market access".
It would also blacklist famous Western social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. and American news outlets like the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal that have been blocked by the Chinese government. Eventually, the company chose to scrap the search engine after Chinese human rights activists' Gmail accounts were hacked in a coordinated attack and negotiations with the Chinese government predictably failed to result in any kind of agreement.
In December, Google announced it was opening an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing.
The US and China are now involved in a trade war, with President Donald Trump imposing tariffs and Beijing responding in kind.
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