At stake is the world's biggest online community of 772 million internet users, with nearly half of the population still not connected to the internet, according to the China Internet Report co-authored by the South China Morning Post, its tech news site Abacus and the San Francisco-based venture capital firm 500 start-ups. The technology giant is reportedly readying to relaunch its search engine in China, and unlike the one it closed in 2010, this one will conform to content demands by the Beijing government.
Google had a similar version of its search engine available in China between 2006 and 2010, but eventually chose to retreat from the country following harsh criticism from the United States for its compliance with the government's censorship.
Wang told HKFP: "Google has also not explained how it plans to protect users from surveillance given China's Cybersecurity Law passed in 2016, which requires companies to restrict online anonymity..."
Google's current focus is reportedly on releasing their Android app in the country, researchers claim that 95 percent of China's population access the internet via mobile devices and Android dominates 80 percent of the Chinese mobile market making an Android app top priority for the company.
A Google spokeswoman said that the company would not speculate on future plans, but that it did already have a notable presence in China.
"Google is waking up to smell the coffee", said Andy Mok, founder and president of Beijing-based consultancy Red Pagoda Resources LLC. But jumping back into China presents ethical issues for Google (GOOGL), which has long advocated a free and open internet. The plans for a new search engine include Android apps that would allow users to search Google without being exposed to information that the government deems unacceptable.
Google has even demonstrated the service to Chinese government officials, the sources added.
The final version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending Chinese official's approval.
"The biggest search engine in the world obeying the censorship in China is a victory for the Chinese government - it sends a signal that nobody will bother to challenge the censorship any more", Poon said. In the first half of 2018, China's national internet regulator shut down or revoked the license of more than 3000 websites.
The project is named Dragonfly and began in the spring of 2017, said sources close to the situation.
Google will certainly be met with swift and immediate blowback from the public at large, as well as within its own company.There are a lot of countries that would gladly pay a pretty penny to censor the internet in their region.
According to The Information, the news aggregation app would use AI and algorithms to select censor-friendly stories for its users.
Censorship is set to continue indefinitely within China and seems to be getting more pervasive every year.
The banned sites will be removed from the search results, so you can expect to simply not see any results at all if searching for a certain topic.