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Bipartisan House group presses Google over China censorship

Bipartisan House group presses Google over China censorship
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers is demanding answers from Google after multiple media reports detailed the internet giant’s plans to develop a censored search engine that would allow it to break into the Chinese market.

Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineBustos announces bid to become fourth-ranking Dem next year Democrat launches bid for assistant leader Hillicon Valley: Manafort to cooperate with Mueller probe | North Korea blasts US over cyber complaint | Lawmakers grill Google over China censorship | Bezos to reveal HQ2 location by year's end MORE (D-R.I.) led the group of 16 House members in a letter sent to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Thursday.

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“Google should not be helping China crack down on free speech and political dissent,” Cicilline wrote in a tweet.

Among the lawmakers that signed on to the letter were Reps. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulSenate passes key cyber bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS Hillicon Valley: Trump stuns with election interference claim against China | FCC limits fees for 5G | Uber reaches 8M settlement over breach | Fox sells Sky stake to Comcast | House passes bills to fix cyber vulnerabilities Sessions calls on former colleagues to send drone legislation to Trump's desk MORE (R-Texas), Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHeritage: Repealing GOP tax law would raise taxes in every district This week: Rosenstein set to meet with House GOP Timeline: Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court MORE (D-Calif.) and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherMidterms in 2018 become most expensive in history Dems target small cluster of states in battle for House GOP super PAC pushes back on report it skipped ad buys for California's Rohrabacher, Walters MORE (R-Calif.).

Google operated in China until 2010 when it pulled out over concerns about free expression in the Communist nation.

Last month, The Intercept reported that Google had launched a project to develop a censored search service in order to comply with Chinese speech restrictions after a meeting between Pichai and Communist Party officials.

The project has reportedly prompted a handful of Google employees, including research scientist Jack Poulson, to resign.

The House members expressed concern on Thursday that Google is willing to enable China’s surveillance apparatus and control over the free flow of information.

“Is Google in the process of developing a search engine or other product for the Chinese market?” the lawmakers wrote to Pichai. “If so, what has changed within the Chinese operating environment since 2010 that led Google to reconsider its decision to stop complying with Chinese Government censorship?”

When asked for comment, a Google spokeswoman pointed to a previous statement about the reported project.

“We've 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," the statement reads. "But our work on search has been exploratory, and we are not close to launching a search product in China.”

Updated at 2:50 p.m.