Sci-tech

Google is reportedly planning to launch a censored search app in China

Google is reportedly planning to launch a censored search app in China”

The secretive project is codenamed "Dragonfly" and has been underway for more than a year.

Plans for Google's censored search product aren't completed and it may never come to fruition, the person said.

The finalised version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials, it added.

It certainly makes financial sense for Google to want a piece of the Chinese market in a more direct fashion, but its previous policy of "Don't Be Evil" may have been completely forgotten for this project.

Google's current focus is reportedly on releasing their Android app in the country, researchers claim that 95 percent of China's population access the internet via mobile devices and Android dominates 80 percent of the Chinese mobile market making an Android app top priority for the company.

"The biggest search engine in the world obeying the censorship in China is a victory for the Chinese government - it sends a signal that nobody will bother to challenge the censorship any more", Poon said.

The human rights group said it would be a "dark day for internet freedom" and would constitute "a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom" if the tech giant accepted China's censorship terms. At the same time, there are over 750 million internet users there, which Google would love to gain access to. "But we don't comment on speculation about future plans". The search service will initially be accessible exclusively through the Android app.

In the company's absence, Baidu Inc has strengthened its grip on search in China while Microsoft's Bing operates in the country by censoring subjects and words.

Although China's internet penetration is just over 50 per cent, its sheer scale means that there are three times the number of smartphone users and 11 times the number of mobile payment users in China than in the United States, according to the report.

The Intercept also reports that Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with a senior Chinese government official in December past year and the government has been shown the service and Android app working. The Intercept reported that such terms would be censored in the planned app.

Such banned sites will be removed from the first page of results, replaced by a legal disclaimer disclosing the action.

According to the Intercept, the app will automatically pick up on and block websites on Beijing's blacklist, known as the Great Firewall.

Google "faces an uphill battle in getting users who are now very accustomed to Baidu to switch", said Mr Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

Censorship is set to continue indefinitely within China and seems to be getting more pervasive every year.



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