©2018 by polity.

  • Alex Wok

Google Re-entering China


Multinational tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter now have an unprecedented presence in the daily lives of billions; acting as custodians to the public’s media consumption, and giving them the ability to shape public opinion. Recently, Facebook has been accused of influencing elections, and in Google, employees discussed the possibility of manipulating search terms to display pro-immigration information. Should tech giants be liable for their content? Does their censorship capabilities impede free speech? Recently, such questions were pushed to the forefront of public discourse.

In 2010 Google pulled out of China after being targeted by a government cyberattack on the Gmail accounts of several human rights activists in China. Since Google’s departure, its former primary rival in China, Baidu, has gone on to dominate the Chinese search engine market, holding 68% of the Chinese search-engine market. However, Google is contemplating a return to China, even though China President Xi Jinping has recently called for tighter cyberspace controls to clamp down on internet speech.

Google has secretly been working on project Dragonfly; a censored version of Google’s search engine that blacklists websites and search times about human rights, democracy, religion, peaceful protest, and other terms deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government. Google is expected to operate Dragonfly in a joint venture with a yet unconfirmed Chinese firm which will be allowed to censor any search term at any time, without the need to receive approval from Google. Perhaps more concerning is that Dragonfly will link the searches of its users with their phone numbers, allowing for the tracing of users who search for sensitive terms.

In addition, Google is expected to sign the Public Pledge of Self-Regulation and Professional Ethics for China Internet Industry, which includes the following clause on censorship:

“Refraining from producing, posting or disseminating pernicious information that may jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability, contravene laws and regulations and spread superstition and obscenity. Monitor the information publicized by users on websites according to law and remove the harmful information promptly.”

Google firmly states that efforts to introduce Google to China is experimental. At the moment at least, Google remains, like many other websites, blocked by China’s Great Firewall.


Googles plan to re-enter China: a betrayal of the principles of freedom of expression or a boon to Chinese internet users?

read more:

  1. The Verge; ‘Google defends controversial China project in meeting with employees’; The Motley Fool; ‘Is Baidu Bad to the Bone?’

  2. Fortune; ‘Google CEO Sundar Pichai Finally Opens Up About That Censored Search Service For China’

  3. The Financial Times; ‘Google confirms ‘Project Dragonfly’ for China’; Technode; ‘Eight years later, Google Search won’t beat Baidu

  4. Ejinsight; ‘Is Google going too far to re-enter China?

  5. Google; ‘About’; Foreign Policy; ‘Google Is Handing the Future of the Internet to China

  6. Amnesty International; ‘Google must not capitulate to China's censorship demands’; The Intercept; ‘AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL TO STAGE WORLDWIDE PROTESTS AGAINST GOOGLE’S “DYSTOPIAN” CENSORED SEARCH FOR CHINA

  7. The Washington Post; ‘Google’s China plan isn’t just evil — it’s bad for business’; The Daily Mail; ‘Russia and China's 'attack on Google': Virtual wargame 'experiment' hits search giant with 'worst ever' internet hijack that intercepted search, cloud and business services’; Vice; ‘The man who launched Google in China says it’s pointless to re-enter the market

  8. The Washington Post; ‘Google’s China plan isn’t just evil — it’s bad for business’; Forbes; ‘Why China Is A No-Go Land For Google