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 CicillineThe Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington Democrats signal growing interest in examining ties between NRA, Russia House Dems talking more about impeaching Trump 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 McCaulPuerto Ricans may have elected Rick Scott and other midterm surprises Midterm results shake up national map Senate passes key cyber bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS MORE (R-Texas), Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooRepresenting patients’ voices Dem lawmaker: 'There's plenty of competent females' that can be Speaker instead of Pelosi Heritage: Repealing GOP tax law would raise taxes in every district MORE (D-Calif.) and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherRohrabacher eyes new career as a screenwriter after losing reelection Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results Democratic gains erasing House GOP in California 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.