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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 CicillineHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator House unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing 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 McCaulKey Republican: Putin meeting will be most 'important' and 'dangerous' of Biden trip Sunday shows preview: Biden foreign policy in focus as Dem tensions boil up back home Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US MORE (R-Texas), Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooPharmaceutical industry donated to two-thirds of Congress ahead of 2020 elections: analysis Gosar is the Republican that Democrats want to avoid NIH readies grants for more research on long-term health effects of COVID-19 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.