In response to the report, a Google spokesperson told HKFP: "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".
Multiple media sources are reporting that Google is working on a search service for the Chinese market, specifically modified to meet the censorship demands of the country's governing Communist Party.
The California-based internet giant has engineers designing search software that would leave out content blacklisted by the Chinese government, according to a New York Times report citing two unnamed people familiar with the effort.
"We also made clear that these attacks and the surveillance they uncovered-combined with attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web in China including the persistent blocking of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Docs and Blogger-had led us to conclude that we could no longer continue censoring our results on Google.cn", the company wrote in a public statement at the time. Google had, up to that point, been self-censoring search results in China but chose to discontinue the practice after the hacking incident.
While it is unclear how many sites will be filtered out by Google's censored search engine, Wikipedia and the BBC were specifically mentioned in company documents as websites that would be blacklisted.
Google is not commenting on "speculation about future plans". "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. "It will set a bad precedent for many other companies who are still trying to do business in China while maintaining the principles of not succumbing to China's censorship". The report further states that Google has demonstrated this new app to government officials already. "This person added the product is controversial internally because it would represent Google accepting censorship".
The censorship will be embedded in image search, spell check, and even suggested search.
From 2006 to 2010, Google operated a censored version of its search engine in China, something it was regularly criticized for.
The Chinese official, who did not want to be named, said that the new project is not now approved by authorities and it was highly unlikely that such a project would be able to be up and operating during 2018.
The story also says knowledge of these moves within the company has been restricted to only a few top executives.
The full and finalized version could be launched as soon as early 2019, pending Chinese officials' approval said the sources.
Google pulled its search service out of China around 2010 because it didn't want to censor results. Still, China has the world's second-largest economy with a huge and fast-growing population of internet users.