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04 August 2018, 12:56 | Jodi Jackson
It could make sense for the tech giant to reintroduce its search engine in China, considering the country is now the biggest internet market in the world. Earlier this year, there was open employee revolt, and a few employees resigned in protest of Google's intended use of its AI technology to support US Defense Department initiatives.
Google's plan comes during a time that China increased its scrutiny into dealings that involve tech firms from the US including Apple, Qualcomm and Facebook amidst the increased trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
As a result of Google's absence, Baidu is the dominant search engine in China, and approved by its government.
This means that Chinese Google users will no longer see words and phrases that are seen as subversive, including references to the Aldous Huxley book Brave New World, the cartoon character Peppa Pig, and even Winnie the Pooh.
News website The Intercept first reported the story, saying the search app was being tailored for the Google-backed Android operating system for mobile devices. Google had, up to that point, been self-censoring search results in China but chose to discontinue the practice after the hacking incident.
The Trump administration ripped Beijing on Thursday over its apparently successful pressure on Google to launch a censored search engine in China.
Fei-Fei Li, a Stanford researcher who joined Google as its chief artificial intelligence scientist in January 2017, said in a blog post at the time, "AI and its benefits have no borders".
When Google pulled out of China in 2010, co-founder Sergey Brin voiced strong objections to any form of censorship having been born in the Soviet Union. Google's plans to release an app that complies with this philosophy raises questions over whether the company is just doing business within the confines of the market or being complicit in oppression. "I am a bit surprised but it's indicative of how much sway the China market now has".
The human rights group said it would be a "dark day for internet freedom" and would constitute "a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom" if the tech giant accepted China's censorship terms.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and The New York Times website are blocked in China, but Microsoft's Bing search engine operates in China. In March 2010, the Mountain View-based company stopped censoring materials in China, by redirecting its Chinese page to the Hong Kong domain which returned uncensored results. Helmed by billionaire founder Robin Li Yanhong, the company has pushed into artificial intelligence, notably in autonomous cars where it is striving to build an open-platform for self-driving vehicle technology.
The search engine project comes amid a US-China trade war, with both sides imposing tit-for-tat tariffs and President Donald Trump accusing Beijing of stealing US technological know-how.
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