Google is allegedly planning to release a Search app in China that will block certain sites in compliance with the country’s aggressive censorship policies. A former executive thinks it’s stupid. ( Loic Venance | AFP/Getty Images )
Earlier this month, reports claimed Google that it was planning to kowtow to China’s censorship policies and release a sanitized version of Google Search that will filter out certain results to comply with the country’s rules around freedom of speech.
Google is now being criticized for this potential move by none other than Lokman Tsui, who served as the company’s head of free expression for Asia and the Pacific until 2014.
In an interview with The Intercept, Tsui said Google’s plan to build a censored version of Search specifically for China is “stupid,” and that it would likely violate human rights standards.
Google’s Censored Search App Isn’t A Good Idea
“In these past few years things have been deteriorating so badly in China — you cannot be there without compromising yourself,” said Tsui, adding that censored version of Search in China “would be a moral victory for Beijing…(which) has nothing to lose.”
If Google is allowed to go back to China, it will be under the terms and conditions that Beijing would lay out for it.
“I can’t see how Google would be able to negotiate any kind of a deal that would be positive. I can’t see a way to operate Google search in China without violating widely-held international human rights standards,” said Tsui.
Google And Freedom Of Speech
A censored search would be a dramatic shift in Google’s position on freedom of speech, notes Business Insider. In 2010, the company pulled out of China in the first place because it did not want to help the Chinese government censor information and be involved in limiting “free speech on the web.”
The censored app will apparently be released as an Android app that will “blacklist sensitive queries” and filter out websites that are blocked in China, including Wikipedia pages and many others. All components under Search, including Image Search, spell check, and suggestions, will be subject to China’s censorship laws.
The Intercept was the first to break the story about Google’s plans for the app in question, citing a whistleblower who provided internal documents detailing the move. The tipster shared the document because they were “against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people.” He also believes “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.”
It is not clear if Google will push through with such plans. It has yet to acknowledge them.
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