A report that came out of The Intercept last week claimed that Google was developing a search engine or mobile search app to re-enter the Chinese search market. According to the article, it described how the search tool would censor content that was deemed offensive or sensitive by the Chinese government.
there was more details on the project in The Intercept and how it has been developed. These details were reportedly based on “confidential documents.”
The article claims that the Chinese website 265.com, which Google bought in 2008, assisted Google in building a database of search queries, websites and keywords that will be “blacklisted.”
From The Intercept’s article:
After gathering sample queries from 265.com, Google engineers used them to review lists of websites that people would see in response to their searches. The Dragonfly developers used a tool they called “BeaconTower” to check whether the websites were blocked by the Great Firewall. They compiled a list of thousands of websites that were banned, and then integrated this information into a censored version of Google’s search engine so that it would automatically manipulate Google results, purging links to websites prohibited in China from the first page shown to users.
Google quit China in January 2010 after Gmail was hacked by Chinese government-affiliated individuals or groups. Even after the decision, Google contemplated when and how to return to the world’s largest internet market.
Since the initial report came out, there was apparently expressed concern by Google employees about collaborating with a perceived to be an authoritarian and repressive regime. There hasn’t been any formal announcement made by Google internally, and Google hasn’t commented publicly.
According to the original report, not only does the Chinese government know of the project, but they approve of it. It’s possible that a mobile search app for Android could even launch in China in the first half of 2019.