Google Profiting Off Authoritarianism

Search engine giant Google is partnering with China to create a censored search platform code-named “Dragonfly.”

The search engine platform will allow the Chinese government to censor certain search terms, including human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest.

Such a partnership between a tech superpower like Google and an economic powerhouse like China is certainly one to keep your eyes on.

Leaked documents obtained by The Intercept indicate that the Chinese search platform will be programmed to automatically identify and block websites that are already censored by the Great Firewall.

If certain triggering keywords or phrases are entered, the person may get nothing but a blank page.

The best part? The entire platform, including image search, automated spell check, and predictive search features will all be linked to the Great Firewall and all its blacklists.

This means that people can’t search any term or issue that the government has banned.

An anonymous source familiar with the project, which has been in progress since spring of last year, revealed to The Intercept that the project is restricted to a few hundred employees.

“I’m against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people, and feel like transparency around what’s being done is in the public interest…what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.” — Anonymous source for The Intercept

At this point, it seems as though project Dragonfly is restricted to the development of an Android-based mobile search application and it remains unclear as to whether a desktop version will ever be released.

According to The Intercept, despite the fact that the documents indicate partnership with a Chinese company, much of the project work is happening at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California.

And this isn’t the first time, either.

Back in the early-to-mid 2000s, Google operated a censored version of its search engine in China despite the backlash they faced from U.S. lawmakers.

By 2010, the pressure rose to a breaking point and Google withdrew its services from China.

Nowadays the market in China poses too great a temptation for the tech giant to resist, and they have re-entered the market in hopes of claiming one of the world’s biggest monopolies.

“This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom. It will set a terrible precedent for many other companies who are still trying to do business in China while maintaining the principles of not succumbing to China’s censorship. 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.”  — Patrick Poon, Hong Kong-based researcher with Amnesty International

Iron Triangle Press will continue to follow this story.

To see the original story by The Intercept, click here.


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