Inside Google's Effort to Develop a Censored Search Engine in China
Publisher: The Intercept
Date Written: 08/08/2018
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22891
Google analyzed search terms entered into a Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for a censored search engine it has been planning to launch in China, according to confidential documents seen by The Intercept. Engineers working on the censorship sampled search queries from 265.com, a Chinese-language web directory service owned by Google.
It appears that Google has used 265.com as a de facto honeypot for market research, storing information about Chinese users' searches before sending them along to Baidu. Google's use of 265.com offers an insight into the mechanics behind its planned Chinese censored search platform, code-named Dragonfly, which the company has been preparing since Spring 2017.
After gathering sample queries from 265.com, Google engineers used them to review lists of websites that people would see in response to their searches. The Dragonfly developers used a tool they called "BeaconTower" to check whether the websites were blocked by the Great Firewall. They compiled a list of thousands of websites that were banned, and then integrated this information into a censored version of Googles search engine so that it would automatically manipulate Google results, purging links to websites prohibited in China from the first page shown to users.
According to documents and people familiar with the Dragonfly project, teams of Google programmers and engineers have already created a functioning version of the censored search engine. Google's plan is for its China search platform to be made accessible through a custom Android app, different versions of which have been named "Maotai" and "Longfei," as The Intercept first reported last week.