He has continued to say that the fact that the world's largest search engine succumbing to China's censorship laws will send a negative signal concerning the right to information and free-speech, making people believe that nobody will ever bother, or should, challenge the censorship any more. (The state-owned China Securities Daily denies the report, per the Guardian.) But "in putting profits before human rights, Google would be setting a chilling precedent" with what Amnesty International sees as "a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom", reports the Guardian.
The project codenamed Dragonfly is claimed to have been underway since early a year ago, with acceleration seen during the last couple of months, courtesy high-level meetings between Sundar Pichai and "a top Chinese government official".
Google is planning to release a censored version of its search app in China, according to a report from The Intercept. "But we don't comment on speculation about future plans", said Taj Meadows, a Google spokesman.
In March 2010, it announced it had stopped running the censored Google.cn service and began routing its Chinese users to an uncensored version of Google based in Hong Kong.
Google's Android already has the largest market share of any operating system in China, now accounting for roughly 51 percent of all devices.
Google's main search platform has been blocked in China since 2010, but it has been attempting to make new inroads into China.
Pichai, Google's CEO, has met with numerous high ranking officials of China's Communist party, including President Xi Jinping's top foreign policy adviser, Wang Huning.
The full and finalized version could be launched as soon as early 2019, pending Chinese officials' approval said the sources.
The company has been slowly entering the Chinese market by launching its Translate app in China and opening an AI research lab in Beijing during 2017. It is now expected that Google will launch in China within the next nine months if the Chinese government allows it. What is to stop Google from collaborating with other oppressive regimes to set up a similar system of censorship in other nations?
According to the report, a few hundred people within Google are aware of the Dragonfly project, with one whistleblower speaking out because of ethical concerns, Business Insider reported.
China infamously maintains extensive censorship of the internet with strict legislation in place to regulate domestic internet usage. According to the leaked materials, the development of the censorship-friendly mobile search engine app began in the spring of previous year.
In 2016, after taking over as Google's new CEO the previous October, Pinchai said at a conference in California, "I care about servicing users globally in every corner".
Google did operate in the country from 2006 to 2010, when it also agreed to the local censorship laws, facing harsh criticism from U.S. officials.
A women polishes a dais before the Google global Chinese name launch on April 12, 2006 in Beijing, China.
The platform will "blacklist sensitive queries", the report claimed, preventing access to websites now blocked by the so-called Great Firewall.