Recent news states that Google is developing a censored search engine app for the Chinese market. This comes as a surprise for fans of the global conglomerate. In 2010, Google pulled its services out of China, claiming that the company doesn’t want to be an accomplice for censoring free speech.
8 years later, a whistleblower contacted the intercept and released documents that show that Google is developing an Android-based search engine app that fully complies with the Great Firewall of China.
The Great Firewall of China
For those of you that don’t know, China has some serious regulations on its internal internet.
The Great Firewall of China (GFC) is the government’s way of enforcing strict internet censorship. Access to non-Chinese information sources, social media platforms, and mobile apps are heavily restricted (sometimes even outright banned).
These regulations don’t just apply to the Chinese citizen, though. Any expats or foreigners living in China have to comply with the GFC, as do any foreign companies. Some of the methods used by China in enforcing the Great Firewall are:
- Self-Censorship. Companies operating on Chinese soil are responsible for the content they release. This leads to very strict legal fees and repercussions, which means that companies usually comply.
- DNS spoofing. The Firewall can hijack, or “poison”, the DNS responses. This way, certain websites becomes completely inaccessible.
- URL filtering. A Filtering URL database checks all websites for any unapproved content. The database will block the websites that have more than a specific number of sensitive keywords.
- VPN blocking. Depending on the internal political situation, VPNs are sometimes completely blocked from working in the Republic. VPN blocking isn’t as strict as the other methods used, though, since the government turns a bit of a blind eye during global events. The 2008 Beijing Olympics saw a much more lenient approach to VPN blocking than usual. For now, we know that ExpressVPN is capable of bypassing China’s Firewall.
- Manual Monitoring. The government employs a very large number of civilian workers to monitor the internet and manually flag any content that doesn’t abide by the censorship laws.
Perhaps the only good aspect of the Great Firewall is that it boosted the internal cybereconomy of China significantly. With no global competition, local sites and social media pages have unrivaled access to over 700 million internet users.
Google’s Censored Search Engine App
A source from within Google has revealed that the company is developing a censored search engine app for the Chinese market. Google started working on this project, code-named Dragonfly, in December 2017.
The search engine will comply with all of the restrictions enforced by the Republic of China. The search engine will blacklist websites with content on democracy, human rights, religion, non-violent protests, or anything that goes against the communist regime. Anyone searching for these terms will not be able to find information about them.
Google is developing the app specifically for Android devices since the operating system covers 80% of the Chinese market. For now, we know that the app might come out within the next 6 to 9 months.
What this Means for the Rest of the World
A lot of people might not be worried about Google’s censored search engine app. “They’re only releasing it in China”, you might say, “so we have nothing to worry about!”
Well, we do. When large global companies like Google start complying with censorship programs, they affect how the rest of the world’s governments start dealing with their citizen’s internet use.
Allow me to explain. China isn’t the only government that enforces strict internet restrictions. It is, however, the most severe case. China is also a huge market, which we now know Google is trying to break into. If the prospect of economic gain is enough to make companies as big as Google turn a blind eye towards oppression of freedom of speech, it won’t be long before others follow in its footsteps.
By releasing its censored search engine app, Google is setting a precedence. It’s showing the world that a country is allowed to eradicate freedom of speech if it’s making the companies that operate in it money. It’s also showing other, smaller companies, that morals and ethics can be put aside in favor of economic growth.
Google’s Chinese Search Engine – Final Thoughts
Google wants to break back into the Chinese market, and the only way to do that is by complying with the government’s strict censorship laws. From a business perspective, Google’s initiative is understandable. Should business take precedence over human rights? Should companies like Google agree to work within the limits of an oppressive legal structure? Let me know what you think about Google’s latest project in the comments.