The project - code-named Dragonfly - has been underway since spring of past year, and accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google's CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, according to internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans.
The news of Google's launch plans has drawn ire from human rights activists, with Amnesty International calling it a "dark day for internet freedom" and "a gross attack on freedom of information and internet freedom", if the launch plans come to fruition.
Reports of Google's possible re-entry spurred a strong reaction on Chinese social media outlets on Wednesday evening, including debates over the merits of a censored search engine versus accessing the USA version through illegal virtual private networks. This will ensure that people will not be recommended photos and information banned by the Chinese government. A few hundred people at Google know about this project, including CEO Sundar Pichai who met the Chinese officials in December 2017.
The tech giant had already come under fire this year from thousands of employees who signed a petition against a $10-million contract with the U.S. military, which was not renewed.
"Huawei and ZTE are nothing more than extensions of the Chinese Communist Party", Cotton said in his announcement of the amendment. In the first half of 2018, China's national internet regulator shut down or revoked the license of more than 3000 websites.More news: Apple officially becomes the first $1 trillion company
The desktop version of Google's search website is now unavailable to many Internet users within China.
The Intercept reports Google's new app could launch within six to nine months, though The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported separately, citing anonymous sources, that the product is only being tested and may never be deployed. For example, links to the BBC website and Wikipedia would be removed from the search results, The Intercept said.
Google famously left the Chinese market in 2010 due to government attempts to "limit free speech on the web".
However, it appears that Google has now had a change of heart, perhaps influenced by China's estimated 772 million internet users.
It's a reversal of its stance from eight years ago, when Google left China in protest of the country's censorship. Beyond search, the vast majority of Google's services, including its app store, email service and YouTube, remain inaccessible behind the Great Firewall, as the country's system of internet controls is known.
Whistleblowers within Google have outed plans to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market, originally leaking to the Intercept.
It's good that Google's famous "Don't be evil" motto isn't an official motto anymore, because Google is about to do a bunch of evil in the near future if a whistleblower is to be believed.