Google Censoring its Search Engine to Tap into Chinese Market
Google decided to suspend operations for search services in the China after a slew of sophisticated cyber attacks in 2010. CEO Eric Schmidt defended the company’s withdrawal from the Chinese market, calling the government’s attempts to control the internet “egregious”. Accommodating government regulations meant Google would need to censor content. Schmidt felt that this made the company complicit in limiting the democratic values of free speech and expression.
WHISTLEBLOWERS UNCOVER SECRET PROJECT
The tech world was shocked earlier this month when a reporter from The Intercept revealed that Google was developing a censored version of its search engine for a launch in China. Google began work on the secret development project, code named “Dragonfly”, in the spring of 2017. This version of the search engine is engineered as an Android app for Chinese consumers. It will limit search terms such as human rights, free speech, and religion.
Whistleblowers within the company leaked the documents as they became increasingly concerned that Google is violating the commitment to higher standards in ethical business conduct.
TECH COMPANIES LOOKING TO CHINA
This move is indicative of the dilemma many tech companies are facing having to do with Chinese regulations. There are over 750 million internet users in the country, representing a potential for billions of dollars in revenue.
Some CEOs, like Google’s Sundar Pichai, feel that there is simply too much money to be made and can no longer ignore the opportunity that China brings. “Dragonfly” is an attempt on the part of Google to tailor its products to enter into this massive Chinese market.
Neither Google nor the Chinese government have confirmed the existence of the ongoing project, but it raises the question as to whether this should be considered an attack on freedom and human rights. China’s censorship demands limit access to information and knowledge. So how are these tech companies to decide between their own ethical values and gaining market share in the world’s largest online population? “Don’t be Evil” was the longstanding unofficial motto for Google, but in the last few months the company shifted the language in their Code of Conduct to “do the right thing”- perhaps the change was prompted by Dragonfly’s mission.