Sundar Pichai: Google 'exploring' censored China search app

Alfred Osborne
October 17, 2018

During the WIRED 25 summit, Pichai said that Chinese tech innovations drove Google to develop an understanding of the market internally: "It's a wonderful, innovative market".

Pichai's argument at Wired 25 was that Google wanted to provide information to the global population, a tacit response to internal and external criticism of the project, codenamed Project Dragonfly.

"It's very early. We don't know whether we could or would do this in China, but we felt it was important for us to explore", Pichai said at the Wired25 conference in San Francisco. I think its just in our nature when were working on a hard problem - and so numerous problems we're working on now are so complex - it just seems rather odd to be telling everyone what you're doing. This summer, The Intercept broke the news that Google had built a search engine that would censor information.

The platform, which still requires Chinese government approval, would reportedly block certain websites and search terms related to human rights and religion.

The Google chief executive also appeared to take a swipe at Baidu, operator of China's largest search engine, suggesting that a Google product would be competitive with local alternatives.

One example is searching "cancer treatments".

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"It's not just a one-way street". He said Google very much supports the U.S. armed forces. "It's an important input we take seriously".

A report from Wired states Pichai went so far as to say his company's censored Search engine would help Chinese internet surfers get better information on cancer treatments: "Today people either get fake cancer treatments or they actually get useful information". The developments also come at a sensitive time for US-China relations amid an escalating trade and technology war. "It's more also the debate within the AI Community around how you perceive our work in this area", Pichai cautioned.

Google's hardly the only tech company that plays footsie with China's totalitarian regime. "We are thoughtfully considering a variety of options for how to offer services in China in a way that is consistent with our mission".

Earlier this month, United States vice-president Mike Pence called for Google to immediately halt work on Dragonfly, saying in a speech that it would "strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers". Google chose to focus on how users would be free to search what they want and might merely have their results restricted.

"I was forced to resign my position on August 31, 2018, in the wake of a pattern of unethical and unaccountable decision making from company leadership", Poulson wrote in his letter of resignation. That's why China has a censorship program, and why they make sure anyone doing business in China comes under their thumb - not to catch dissenters as much as to frighten people out of dissent altogether.

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