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Google Assures Uncensored Search Engine for China

In December, Google announced it was opening an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing.

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Google
Google shuts down 'censored' Chinese Search project: Report. VOA

More than a dozen human rights groups are urging Google not to offer censored internet search in China, amid reports it is planning to again provide the service in the giant market.

A joint letter Tuesday calls on CEO Sundar Pichai to explain what Google is doing to safeguard users from the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance.

It describes the company’s secretive plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship as representing “an alarming capitulation by Google on human rights.”

“The Chinese government extensively violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy; by accommodating the Chinese authorities’ repression of dissent, Google would be actively participating in those violations for millions of internet users in China,” the letter says.

In a statement, Google said it has “been investing for many years to help Chinese users, from developing Android, through mobile apps such as Google Translate and Files Go, and our developer tools. But our work on search has been exploratory, and we are not close to launching a search product in China.”

In the U.S., President Donald Trump and other conservatives have lobbed charges of censorship at Google and other U.S. tech companies, though they haven’t provided evidence. On Tuesday, Trump claimed that Google had rigged search results about him “so that almost all stories & news is BAD.” A top adviser said the White House is “taking a look” at whether Google should face federal regulation. The companies deny the accusations.

Meanwhile, Apple announced plans last year to open a data center in mainland China with ties to the country’s government, raising concerns about the security of iCloud accounts that store personal information from Apple customers who live in mainland China, even when they’re traveling outside the country. Other major technology companies, including Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM, already had similar deals to run data centers in mainland China to remain in the good graces of the country’s Communist government.

Google Along with Other SSocial Media Giants will Face The Lawmakers, Wikimedia Commons
Google created a custom Android app that will automatically filter out sites blocked by China’s so-called “Great Firewall.” Wikimedia Commons

Google employees protest

The rights groups’ expression of concern over a Chinese search engine from Google follows a letter earlier this month from more than a thousand Google employees protesting the China plans. The letter called on executives to review ethics and transparency at the company.

Google had previously complied with censorship controls starting in 2006 as it sought a toehold in the booming Chinese economy. But it exited the Chinese search market in 2010 under unrelenting pressure from human rights groups and some shareholders.

Tuesday’s letter, signed by groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, said China’s controls over the internet have only strengthened since then amid an overall crackdown on civil liberties and freedom of expression. The letter said it would be difficult for Google to relaunch a search engine “in a way that would be compatible with the company’s human rights responsibilities under international standards, or its own commitments.”

Investing in China

According to online news site The Intercept, Google created a custom Android app that will automatically filter out sites blocked by China’s so-called “Great Firewall.”

Google co-founder Sergey Brin was born in the Soviet Union in 1973 and lived there until age 6 when his family fled. He has said his experience with a repressive regime shaped his and the company’s views.

Also Read: Here Comes The Bilingual Google Assistant

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However, Pichai, who became CEO in 2015, has said he wants Google to be in China serving Chinese users.

In December, Google announced it was opening an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing, and in June, Google invested $550 million in JD.com, a Chinese e-commerce platform that is second only to Alibaba in the country. The companies said they would collaborate on retail solutions around the world without mentioning China, where Google services including Gmail and YouTube are blocked. (VOA)

Next Story

China on Consecutive Missions To Moon and Mars

The 2011 Wolf Amendment, motivated by security concerns, bans NASA scientists from working with Chinese citizens affiliated to a Chinese state enterprise or entity

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NASA, Moon
China plans another Moon mission in 2019, targets Mars in 2020: Report

Riding on its success of landing a rover on the far side of the Moon earlier in January, China’s space agency is planning to launch another mission to the Moon by the end of 2019 and a mission to Mars as early as 2020, the media reported.

The plans underscore China’s ambitions in space at a time when the US is curtailing NASA’s budget and increasingly handing over space exploration to commercial adventurers, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The China National Space Administration is working to send a probe to the Red Planet, said Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the agency.

“China will carry out its first-ever exploration mission to Mars around 2020,” he said.

On January 3, China’s robotic spacecraft Chang’e-4 landed on the far side of the moon, a first in the human history of space exploration.

The 1.3-tonne lander, which made a soft landing on the Moon, put potato seeds and silkworm eggs housed in a chamber, and fed natural light and nutrition, on the Moon.

The space agency plans to launch a Chang’e-5 mission at the end of 2019 with the goal of collecting samples from the near side of the moon, Wu said. They would be the first samples retrieved since 1976.

China is also building its own space station, called Tiangong or Heavenly Palace, which is expected to be operational in 2022. But the agency is still deciding whether to send astronauts to the Moon, Wu said.

NASA mars, UAE, Hubble
China plans to land Mars in 2020 VOA

It also deployed a small rover called Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, to explore the surrounding lunar terrain, which is believed to be older than that on the near side.

“All these are first-time breakthroughs for humankind,” Wu said, adding “they are bound to make significant impacts on both China and the world.”

Meanwhile, China also said it has shared data with NASA about the Chang’e-4 lunar mission.

That claim could not be immediately substantiated, but it could raise eyebrows on Capitol Hill because NASA and the Chinese agency are prohibited from cooperating without congressional approval, the report said.

Also Read: China Exchanged Data With NASA On Its Recent Mission To Moon

The 2011 Wolf Amendment, motivated by security concerns, bans NASA scientists from working with Chinese citizens affiliated to a Chinese state enterprise or entity.

“Expanded international cooperation is the wish of all scientists,” Wu said. “It takes joining of forces among the world’s big space powers to really make a difference in human space exploration.” (IANS)