As The Trump administration continues to take heat for its proposed tariff policy toward China — which was facilitated in part, the White House says, by China’s intellectual and outright cybertheft — Google has been quietly working on striking a deal to bring their search engine technology back to China after an 8 year principled hiatus due to China’s desire to censor search results.
The statute of limitations seems to have expired on those principles because Google’s plan, nicknamed Dragonfly and reportedly in the works since last year, will roll out search capabilities in China that will meet the state-mandated restrictions on information China doesn’t want its citizens to see.
The Chinese government currently blocks information on topics such as free speech, sex, political opponents, news, academic studies, and controversial events in history, as per a report by The Intercept. The folks over at The Intercept also claim to have received access to documents titled “Google Confidential” that detail plans of Google’s re-entry into the Chinese market after more than 8 years of exile. To recall, Google’s search engine cannot be accessed normally in China, considering it has been blocked by the country’s ‘Great Firewall’.
In what is expected to be an extreme move, the report suggests Google will “blacklist sensitive queries” so that users see no results at all when searching for certain blocked words and phrases on the custom search engine. These may include phrases such as “human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest.” This censorship will happen across the board, with elements like image search, spell check, and search suggestions hiding keywords blocked on request of the Chinese government.
Google employees — about a thousand of them — have found their voices over the plan, penning a letter in protest and asking that more information be shared by Google’s top brass so engineers can get a better understanding of what they’re putting their names on.
The letter reads “currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment,” as two anonymous sources informed the Times. It continued, “Google employees need to know what we’re building.”
The only statement Google has made about their secretive plan to bow to the Chinese state in order to do business there came on August 3rd:
“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. But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.”
It’s an interesting turn of events when the Trump administration is seen as evil for trying to correct trade imbalances with China that certainly includes cybertech, while the biggest tech company in the world — and the one that preaches “Don’t Be Evil” — not only embraces those imbalances, but seems willing to shift its own moral stance on issues such as free speech to do business in the same country while being super secretive about it.