Google left the Chinese market in 2010, having fallen foul of the country’s censorship laws, and to date, has never been back.
However, if certain media outlets are correct, that could all be about to change.
It’s alleged that the product will automatically block sites and services already banned in China. These would include social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instragram.
According to the Intercept, it would also “blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest”—contentious issues in China right now.
It’s also said that the search engine will be ready to launch in six to nine months, pending approvals from high-ranking Chinese officials. The Intercept reports that Google CEO Sundar Pichai has already met with Chinese officials, and that the customised search engine app has been demostrated to them.
In response to a query from TechCrunch, a Google representative gave this statement:
We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com. But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.
For now, it seems that Google are unwilling to either confirm or deny rumours, leaving us no option but to wait and see.
One thing, however, is for sure. If Google does launch a China-specific search engine in complicance with its censorship laws, this marks a notable change in the company’s stated principles. We shall see.