Google could be preparing to launch a search engine in China that would conform to the country's strict censorship laws, after previously opting out of the country in 2010.
The search tool would blacklist search terms and websites referencing human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protest, according to documents seen by The Intercept. The documents reportedly reference a project code-named Dragonfly that has been underway since spring 2017.
Google programmers and engineers have reportedly made an Android app that's already been shown to the Chinese government. A final version could be rolled out in six to nine months, depending on when it's approved by Chinese officials, The Intercept reported.
But state-owned China Securities Daily reported on Thursday, first noticed by Reuters, that Google's return to China isn't true. Citing unnamed analysts and information from "relevant departments", it suggests Google is unlikely to return to China in the short term and might be trying to trigger the market after bad PR from its EU $5 billion penalty over antitrust violations related to the Android mobile operating system.
The company withdrew from providing search tools to the Chinese market in 2010, and its international search engine is blocked by the country's so-called "Great Firewall." The version of the search engine Google is reportedly building would comply with China's censorship laws, even though the country is cracking down harder than ever to limit free speech online.
"We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. "But we don't comment on speculation about future plans."
First published Aug. 1, 8:25 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:45 p.m.: Adds details.
Update, 10:35 p.m.: Adds reports saying Google's return to China isn't true.