Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
IT | By Laverne Higgins

Will Google search actually return to China?

Will Google search actually return to China?

China's state-owned Securities Times reported (link in Chinese) on Thursday that reports of Google 's re-entry in China are untrue, citing an unnamed source within the government, or "from relevant authorities".

According to sources, it's planning to launch a censored version of its search engine which will block certain websites and even some search terms.

Andy Tian, a tech executive who formerly led mobile strategy and partnerships for Google in China, said the Chinese tech companies that now dominate search can't compete with Google's product. Tech Crunch reported that Google is essentially cloning Toutiao, a popular app in China.

Amnesty International researcher Patrick Poon told The Intercept that Google working with the Chinese government sets a "terrible precedent" for other international companies, calling the development of the search engine "a big disaster for the information age".

It came on Google's table in the spring of past year. Furthermore, Google's ability to deliver censored search might convince other governments to require similar apps to allow Google to operate in those countries.

"Google is waking up to smell the coffee", said Andy Mok, founder and president of Beijing-based consultancy Red Pagoda Resources LLC.

Fast forward eight years, and Chinese internet companies are some of the largest on the planet, with much of their success forged on an uneven home playing field on which western companies have been unable to compete.

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Google's strength in mobile would certainly give the company a lead in search and advertising services.

Depending on when the Chinese government approves the "toned down" Google, the app could launch anytime in the next 6-9 months.

A Google spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the company "does not comment on speculation about future plans". For example, links to the BBC website and Wikipedia would be removed from the search results, The Intercept said. It's unclear if Google will get the green light from Chinese officials with the escalating trade dispute with the U.S.

Google exited the Chinese mainland in 2010 after clashing with Beijing over the censorship of search results and a cyberattack on users of its Gmail email service.

Search engines - one of the most important things in the world in this day and age - thus, serve no goal in China.

Wang told HKFP: "Google has also not explained how it plans to protect users from surveillance given China's Cybersecurity Law passed in 2016, which requires companies to restrict online anonymity..." A few years later, Google corrected that error and stopped censoring results in China, leading to the site mostly being blocked by China's Great Firewall.

Whistleblowers within Google have outed plans to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market, originally leaking to the Intercept. Facebook (FB), which competes with Google for advertising revenue, is also locked out of China.

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