Sen. Tom Cotton released a statement on Thursday that slammed Google’s decision to launch a search engine in China that will comply with China’s censorship demands.
“Google said it wouldn’t bow to Beijing’s censorship, and it should stick to its word, especially now that it’s canceled its partnership with our military. Google claims to value freedom and one hopes Google will put its corporate principles and America first, ahead of Chinese cash,” Cotton said in a statement.
Google plans to release a search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest, The Intercept reported on Wednesday.
The project – code-named Dragonfly – has been underway since spring of last year, and accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, according to internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans.
Teams of programmers and engineers at Google have created a custom Android app, different versions of which have been named “Maotai” and “Longfei.” The app has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government; the finalized version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials.
One source who has knowledge about the Dragonfly project expressed worry about its ethical and moral implications.
“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,” the source told the Intercept. The source worries the project will be a blueprint for other authoritarian countries to follow.
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. Pichai has publicly stated he was eager for Google to start operating in China.
“I care about servicing users globally in every corner. Google is for everyone,” he said. “We want to be in China serving Chinese users.”
This wouldn’t be the first time Google has operated in China. From 2006 to 2010, the company was active in the country, but it came under fire for being an “accomplice” to China’s strict censorship laws.
“Google has seriously compromised its ‘don’t be evil’ policy,” Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) said during a 2006 congressional hearing. “Indeed, it has become evil’s accomplice.”
In 2010, the company announced it would cease all operations in China, explaining it could not be involved in censorship.
Google is not the only major corporation that has bowed to China’s censorship demands. Apple has banned apps at the request of the Chinese government.
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