In 2010, Google was offended by the Chinese government forcing them to censor search results. The government had demanded that Google remove any search results containing references to topics such as freedom, democracy, human rights and peaceful protest. As a result, the company turned off censorship and awaited the country's response, which came within hours. YouTube and other Google properties were blocked nearly immediately, with the rest of Google going away shortly after. At the time, Google's chief legal officer, Senior Vice President David Drummond, said,
We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.
That is a very clear and firm stance on the idea of censorship, especially government-enforced censorship, from Google. Today, the tone at Google has changed significantly. The company regularly and almost gleefully censors content on YouTube daily, and not at the request of any government, but simply because they disagree with the content. There is even some evidence that Google may be shadow banning search results under the same circumstances.
This week, a report from The Intercept suggests that Google has decided that, with their new censorship-friendly attitude, it is the right time to give China a try again. The project, which is codenamed Dragonfly, has already gained a lot of momentum, including a meeting with the Chinese government last December to gain approval. The new Chinese search engine would be distributed as an app and would "blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest."
As the US government has continued to raise concerns about US companies doing business with the Chinese government, and about Chinese companies doing business in the US, it was inevitable that Congress would get involved. A collection of 6 Senators, including Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, sent a letter to Google expressing their concerns about the rumored project. The letter goes so far as to say that, if the rumors are true, Google could be considered complicit in China's human rights violations. It also says,
It is a coup for the Chinese government and Communist Party to force Google - the biggest search engine in the world - to comply with their onerous censorship requirements, and sets a worrying precedent for other companies seeking to do business in China without compromising their core values.
It would certainly be a huge win for the Communist Party to be able to say that such a large company was brought under the thumb of the Party. These kinds of fear-based PR campaigns are how Communism spread so widely the first time, and how Socialism is trying to spread today. It would be a problem for other US companies if Google does agree to censor their content in China.