Wednesday, 17 October, 2018


Google developing censored search for China; whatever happened to ethics?

Visitors talk to staff members at a Google display booth during the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing Google developing censored search for China; whatever happened to ethics?
Melba Vasquez | 04 August, 2018, 14:18

Google has had quite the roller coaster ride with China.

"We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered-combined with attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger-had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn", the company wrote in a public statement at the time.

The Intercept earlier reported Google's China plans on Wednesday, citing internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans.

The project codenamed Dragonfly is claimed to have been underway since early previous year, with acceleration seen during the last couple of months, courtesy high-level meetings between Sundar Pichai and "a top Chinese government official".

Chinese state-owned Securities Times, however, said reports of the return of Google's search engine to China were not true, citing information from "relevant departments".

Google launched a Chinese language version of its search engine - google.cn - in 2006. He said he had transferred out of his unit to avoid being involved.

"We don't comment on speculation about future plans", a Google spokesperson wrote in an email to Search Marketing Daily.

Google developing censored search for China; whatever happened to ethics?

Project Dragonfly was most likely not supposed to be made public this soon.

But Meredith Whittaker, a New York University research scientist and recognized ethicist in artificial intelligence who also happens to be a Google employee, raised questions publicly about whether Google's plan to provide a censored search service in China violated the company's new AI principles.

China's top Internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

Code-named Dragonfly, the Google project involves a customised Android app developed by Google engineers that will automatically be able to identify and block websites filtered by China's Great Firewall, according to The Intercept.

But Google is already being warned that complying with Chinese censorship is a complex business requiring an army of moderators. The US technology giant said that it withdrew from the Chinese market in 2010 in protest of online censorship and hacking. The company also has apps like Google Translate and Files Go available in the Chinese market, but major services like Gmail, Search and Play Store are still not available in the country. A launch within the next six to nine months is expected contingent upon government approval.

At the time, Google staffers wrote an open letter to company CEO Sundar Pichai, which read in part, "We can not outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties".

In the years since Google's exit, local competitors have risen up, including China's dominant search engine, Baidu. "I'd rather not have it than use a castrated version".

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