More and more reports suggest that Google is developing a search engine for the Chinese market that can blacklist words unwelcomed by the Communist Party. IT giant insiders say employees are angered by management’s decision. For a human rights advocate, “profits before human rights” will hand “the Chinese government a victory."
Beijing (AsiaNews) – IT giant Google is developing a search engine for the Chinese market, able to blacklist words deemed undesirable by China’s Communist Party, The Intercept news website has reported.
Some Google insiders have confirmed the rumours, saying that some employees are angry about management’s decision. One is said to have quit so as to have nothing to do with the project.
Code-named Dragonfly, the project includes applications that can block websites and search terms like human rights and religion. Other sensitive terms for the Communist Party like Tibet, Xinjiang, Liu Xiaobo or Dalai Lama may also be automatically censored.
Chinese state-owned Securities Times has denied reports about Google’s search engine. However, insiders familiar with the censored version of the search engine told major news agencies that the project was well underway.
"We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com," a Google spokeswoman said. "But we don't comment on speculation about future plans."
Dragonfly appears to have begun in the spring of 2017 after Google's CEO Sundar Pichai met a Chinese government official. “Google is for everyone,” Pichai had said in 2016 speaking about the Chinese market. “We want to be in China serving Chinese users.”
At present, Google, aka Big G, has about 700 employees and three offices in China, even its main product, its search engine, cannot be used in the country.
For Patrick Poon, a researcher with human rights group Amnesty International, “it will be a dark day for internet freedom if Google has acquiesced to China's extreme censorship rules to gain market access.
"In putting profits before human rights, Google would be setting a chilling precedent and handing the Chinese government a victory."
In the past, Google – and to some extent Microsoft – had set themselves apart for taking a stand in favour of democracy against certain national governments.
With respect to China, they criticised on several occasions Communist Party's censorship and defended the human rights of their Chinese employees and collaborators.