Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) is reportedly developing a censored version of its search engine for use in China, according to the Intercept. The project began in the spring of 2017, and knowledge of it has been limited to only a few hundred out of the 88,000 employees. “Dragonfly” is the code name given to this ‘secret’ development project. Google has already created preliminary Android apps named “Maotai” and “Longfei” to be used for demonstration purposes for the Chinese government. It is said that after receiving approval from the Chinese government, the final version of the app may be released within six to nine months. It is still unclear whether or not Google will launch a censored website version of the search engine, but currently it remains as only an Android app.
China’s “Great Firewall” blocks the Google search engine we are familiar, making it unavailable to the majority of users in China. The Chinese government has a policy on filtering information on the internet regarding subjects such as human rights, democracy, religion, political opponents, free speech, peachful protest, news, academic studies and sex. Some particular topics blocked include the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, books like 1984 and Animal Farm, and mentions of anti-communism. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter are among the list of censored websites along with news establishments such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
Google plans to follow China’s severe censorship laws by filtering and restricting content that appears on their search engine. Websites that do not follow the government’s policies will be not appear on the search results, instead a disclaimer saying “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements” will appear. If the search term entered is too sensitive, the search engine will not provide any results at all.
The last time Google’s search engine was available in China was in 2010, but controversy from the U.S. over the censored website ultimately led to Google removing their search engine from China. At the time, Google said it “could no longer continue censoring our results” by regulating information provided to users. Now, people are worried about the impact this news will have. The anonymous source within Google who provided this sensitive information to The Intercept said they fear the impact that this new development might have on other nations, saying that it is possible “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.”