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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 CicillineHouse passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble Six ways to visualize a divided America 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 McCaulOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Lawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (R-Texas), Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds Democrats' letter targeting Fox, Newsmax for misinformation sparks clash during hearing West Virginia AG urges news providers to resist calls to 'censor' programming MORE (D-Calif.) and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 California was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success GOP's Steel wins California House race after Democrat Rouda concedes 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.