Google declined Wednesday to confirm reports that it plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, where its main search platform was previously blocked, along with its YouTube video platform.
"We provide a number of mobile apps in China ... [to] help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com. But we don't comment on speculation about future plans," a Google spokesperson told VOA in a statement.
The first report on the possible rollout came from The Intercept, and online news publication, which cited internal Google documents and people familiar with the purported plan.
The Intercept said the project, code-named Dragonfly, has been in development since last year. It said the project began to progress more quickly following a December meeting between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and a senior Chinese government official.
Search terms regarding democracy, human rights and peaceful protests will be among those blacklisted in the new search engine app, the report said. It added the search engine had already been demonstrated to Chinese government officials.
The report said a final version could be introduced within six to nine months, pending approval of Chinese officials.
China's top internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, has not commented on the reported plans.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and former U.S. presidential candidate, posted on Twitter that Google should be given the "benefit of the doubt" but that the reported plans were still "very disturbing."
Giving benefit of the doubt until we learn more. But reading how @Google has plans to help #China set up a censored search engine is very disturbing. They won’t help @DeptofDefense keep us safe but they will help China suppress the truth? https://t.co/S0X3VemOIT— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 1, 2018